International tourist numbers surged by 5.2 percent to nearly half a billion people worldwide in the first half of this year, beating earlier expectations, the UN’s World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) said on Monday.
About 494 million international tourists spent at least one night abroad in the first six months of the year, the Madrid-based agency said in a report of preliminary results for the period.
As a result of the “robust” performance, the UNWTO said it was boosting its forecast for this year.
After originally tipping growth of 3 percent to 4 percent for the whole year, it now expects the increase to be at the higher end of that range “or to slightly exceed it.”
Europe enjoyed growth of 5.1 percent in international tourist numbers in the six months, it said.
The Asia-Pacific region reported growth of 6.2 percent including an 11.6 percent surge in tourists going to Southeast Asia. However, results were weaker than anticipated in the Americas, which posted growth of just 2.2 percent.
International tourist numbers grew 3.1 percent in North America, but South America reported growth of just 0.3 percent and the Caribbean had growth of a meager 0.1 percent.
In Africa, international tourist arrivals rose by 3.8 percent. In the Middle East, tourist numbers soared by 12.9 percent, but these figures should be viewed “with caution” because of uneven results and limited data, the report said.