MADRID: International tourist numbers grew 4.6 percent in the first half of 2014, boosted by strong growth in the Americas, Asia and parts of Europe, the World Tourism Organisation said Wednesday.
The number of international tourists surged to around 517 million between January and June, 22 million more than during the same time last year, the Madrid-based United Nations body said in a statement.
“These results show that tourism is consolidating the positive performance of recent years, providing development and economic opportunities worldwide”, said UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai.
“Despite geopolitical and economic challenges, the number of international tourist arrivals has grown by five percent a year on average since 2010, a trend that has translated into more economic growth, more exports and more jobs,” he added.
Tourist arrivals rose at the fastest rate in the Americas, where numbers were up by six percent.
In Europe, the world’s most-visited region, numbers continued to grow from last year, with arrivals in northern countries growing eight percent.
And Asia-Pacific posted a five percent rise in tourist arrivals, with major destinations such as Japan, South Korea and Malaysia posting double-digit growth rates.
“The region has been benefiting from ongoing economic growth, continuous investment in infrastructure and visa facilitation measures,” the statement said.
Asian nations are rushing to build hundreds of new airports to cope with surging demand from a fast-growing middle class for air travel in the region.
Business consultancy Frost & Sullivan Asia Pacific predicts over 350 new airports will be built in the Asia-Pacific region over the next ten years at a cost of over $100 billion (78 billion).
In 2013 the number of international tourist arrivals grew by five per cent from the previous year to 1.09 billion and the UN body expects the figure will grow again by 4.0-4.5 percent this year.