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Exports from international tourism hit US$1.7 trillion

Published:Wednesday | June 12, 2019 | 12:14 AM

Exports generated by international tourism reached USD 1.7 trillion in 2018, a four per cent increase in real terms over the previous year, a new report from the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) shows.

For the seventh year in a row, tourism exports grew faster than merchandise exports (+3 per cent), reflecting solid demand for international travel in a generally robust economic environment.

Strong growth in outbound travel from many source markets around the world fuelled revenues from international tourism to reach a total USD 1.7 trillion.

This accounts for 29 per cent of global service exports and seven per cent of overall exports of goods and services. These figures consolidate international tourism among the top five economic sectors in the world, behind chemical manufacturing and the fuel industry but ahead of the food and automotive industries.

“Rather than growing in volume, we need to grow in value. We are pleased to see that both emerging and advanced economies around the world are benefiting from rising tourism income,” said UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili.

“Revenues from international tourism translate into jobs, entrepreneurship, and a better situation for people and local economies while reducing trade deficits in many countries,” he added.

Total exports from international tourism include USD 1,448 billion in international tourism receipts (visitor spending in destinations) and USD 256 billion in international passenger transport services.

Tourism constitutes a key source of foreign exchange and a major tool for export diversification for many destinations.

International tourism receipts increased four per cent in real terms (adjusting for exchange rate fluctuations and inflation) to reach USD 1,448 billion in 2018, about USD 100 billion more than the previous year. This is consistent with the six per cent increase in international tourist arrivals in 2018.


By regions, Asia and the Pacific led the way with seven per cent growth in international tourism receipts, followed by Europe with a five per cent increase.

The Middle East saw three per cent growth, while Africa (+1 per cent) and the Americas (0 per cent) recorded more modest results. Central and Eastern Europe and North-East Asia (both +9 per cent) were the subregions with the strongest growth.

France and Russia lead growth among top spenders

Growth in receipts was fuelled by strong demand for international travel in the context of a robust global economy.

Among the world’s top ten source markets, France and the Russian Federation both recorded 11 per cent growth in outbound spending in 2018 while Australia saw a 10 per cent increase.

China, the world’s top spender, reported USD 277 billion in international tourism expenditure in 2018, a five per cent increase in real terms from a year earlier while the United States, the second largest, spent seven per cent more, to reach USD 144 billion.

International expenditure from the United Kingdom grew three per cent in 2018, and four per cent from Italy, while Germany and the Republic of Korea both reported rather flat results.

Further down the ranking, Spain enjoyed 12 per cent higher spending on international tourism in 2018.