International tourist arrivals up 4% in the first four months of 2015

Despite war, natural disasters and economic gloom, international tourism grew between January and April 2015 with tourist arrivals increasing 4% worldwide according to the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer. Prospects for the May-August period remain upbeat, with 500 million tourists expected to travel abroad during these four months.

Destinations worldwide received some 332 million international tourists (overnight visitors) between January and April 2015, 16 million more than in 2014, and an increase of 4%. This follows an increase of 4.3% in 2014).

By region, the Americas (+6%) led growth, followed by Europe, Asia and the Pacific and the Middle East, all recording 4% to 5% more arrivals. By sub region, Oceania and South America boasted the strongest increase (both +8%), followed by the Caribbean and Central and Eastern Europe (both +7%), the latter rebounding from last year’s decline.

In the Americas (+6%) all four sub regions continued to enjoy significant growth in January-April 2015, led by South America (+8%) and the Caribbean (+7%). Strong outbound demand from the United States fuelled results as 20 million US tourists travelled abroad through April, 7% more than during the same period last year.

Asia and the Pacific (+4%) consolidated its growth of recent years, with Oceania (+8%) and North-East Asia (+5%) in the lead. South East Asia (+3%) recorded moderate results as the rebound in Thailand (+25%) was offset by declines in other destinations.

Europe, the world’s most visited region, enjoyed continued strength with international tourist arrivals growing by 5%. Arrivals in Central and Eastern Europe increased by 7%, rebounding on the poor results of 2014 following the conflict in Ukraine and the slowdown of the Russian economy.

Southern Mediterranean Europe (+5%) maintained strong growth, though for many destinations these are low season months. Western Europe and Northern Europe both enjoyed a solid 4% increase in arrivals, partly due to good results in traditional winter sports destinations.

International tourist arrivals in the Middle East are up by 4%. Africa’s international tourist numbers fell by 6% as a consequence of the decrease in arrivals to North Africa (-7%) as well as to sub-Saharan Africa (-5%). The Ebola crisis in West Africa and the security concerns are serious challenges for Africa’s tourism

UNWTO expects international tourist arrivals to increase by 3% to 4% for the full year 2015.The global and regional pattern of medical tourism growth or falls tends to follow the tourism trend, but not when you get down to country figures.