1,053 million international tourists: Where in the world is everyone going?


In six decades, international tourism has skyrocketed from 25 million holidaymakers in 1950 to 1,053 million in 2012. Once again summer is here and many of us Brits are clearing our desks, packing our bags and heading off to favoured destinations such as Spain, Greece and Turkey for two weeks of sun, sea and sand. But where do people from around the world take their holidays? Here we take a look at the Top 10 destinations for international tourists and which countries are making the most from tourism…

Top 10 countries for international tourist arrivals

  1. France (83m)
  2. United States (67m)
  3. China (57.7m)
  4. Spain (57.7m)
  5. Italy (46.4m)
  6. Turkey (35.7m)
  7. Germany (30.4m)
  8. UK (29.3m)
  9. Russian Federation (25.7m)
  10. Malaysia (25m)

Data for 2012

Top 10 countries for revenue from tourism

  1. United States ($126.2m)
  2. Spain ($55.9m)
  3. France ($53.7m)
  4. China ($50m)
  5. Macao ($43.7m)
  6. Italy ($41.2m)
  7. Germany ($38.1m)
  8. UK ($36.4m)
  9. Hong Kong ($32.1m)
  10. Australia ($31.5m)

Data for 2012 in USD

We know WHERE they went – but WHY did they go?

In 2012, travel for holidays, recreation and leisure accounted for 52% of all international tourist arrivals, while business and professional purposes accounted for 14%. Visiting friends & relatives, religious reasons & pilgrimages and health treatments accounted for 27%, while the reasons were unspecified for 7% of journeys.

Who spends the most on travel?

The biggest spenders are Chinese travellers, who spent a record US $102 billion on international tourism in 2012, up a massive 37% on 2011. According to the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) the growth is down to rising disposable incomes, a relaxation on restrictions on foreign travel and an appreciating currency. Other big spenders include Germany ($84 billion), the United States ($83 billion) and the UK ($52 billion). Outside of the top ten, a number of emerging markets showed substantial growth in spending figures, including Norway, UAE, Kuwait, Poland, Thailand, Qatar, Egypt and Columbia.

Predicted growth for international tourist arrivals worldwide

This looks like it will reach a staggering 1.8 billion by 2030, according to UNWTO, increasing by an average of 3.3% a year.

Between 2010 and 2030, arrivals in emerging destinations are expected to increase twice as fast as those in advanced economies, eventually overtaking them (growth of 4.4% a year compared with 2.2% a year).

New popular destinations on the horizon

Turkey and Spain may still be the most popular holiday destinations; but emerging markets such as Thailand and Egypt are on the road to becoming the destinations of choice for holidaymakers around the world.

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