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International Tourist Arrivals Reach 1.4 billion Two Years Ahead of Forecasts

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International tourist arrivals grew 6% in 2018, totalling 1.4 billion according to the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer. UNWTO’s long term forecast issued in 2010 indicated the 1.4 billion mark would be reached in 2020, yet the remarkable growth of international arrivals in recent years has brought it two years ahead.

International tourist arrivals up 6% in 2018

UNWTO estimates that worldwide international tourist arrivals (overnight visitors) increased 6% to 1.4 billion in 2018, clearly above the 3.7% growth registered in the global economy.

In relative terms, the Middle East (+10%), Africa (+7%), Asia and the Pacific and Europe (both at +6%) led growth in 2018. Arrivals to the Americas were below the world average (+3%).

“The growth of tourism in recent years confirms that the sector is today one of the most powerful drivers of economic growth and development. It is our responsibility to manage it in a sustainable manner and translate this expansion into real benefits for all countries, and particularly, to all local communities, creating opportunities for jobs and entrepreneurship and leaving no one behind” said UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili. “This is why UNWTO is focussing 2019 on education, skills and job creation.”, he added.

UNWTO’s long-term forecast published in 2010 predicted the 1.4 billion mark of international tourist arrivals for 2020. Yet stronger economic growth, more affordable air travel, technological changes, new businesses models and greater visa facilitation around the word have accelerated growth in recent years.

Results by region

International tourist arrivals in Europe reached 713 million in 2018, a notable 6% increase over an exceptionally strong 2017. Growth was driven by Southern and Mediterranean Europe (+7%), Central and Eastern Europe (+6%) and Western Europe (+6%). Results in Northern Europe were flat due to the weakness of arrivals to the United Kingdom.

Asia and the Pacific (+6%) recorded 343 million international tourist arrivals in 2018. Arrivals in South-East Asia grew 7%, followed by North-East Asia (+6%) and South Asia (+5%). Oceania showed more moderate growth at +3%.

The Americas (+3%) welcomed 217 million international arrivals in 2018, with mixed results across destinations. Growth was led by North America (+4%), and followed by South America (+3%), while Central America and the Caribbean (both -2%) reached very mixed results, the latter reflecting the impact of the September 2017 hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Data from Africa points to a 7% increase in 2018 (North Africa at +10% and Sub-Saharan +6%), reaching an estimated 67 million arrivals.

The Middle East (+10%) showed solid results last year consolidating its 2017 recovery, with international tourist arrivals reaching 64 million.

Growth expected to return to historical trends in 2019

Based on current trends, economic prospects and the UNWTO Confidence Index, UNWTO forecasts international arrivals to grow 3% to 4% next year, more in line with historic growth trends.

As a general backdrop, the stability of fuel prices tends to translate into affordable air travel while air connectivity continues to improve in many destinations, facilitating the diversification of source markets. Trends also show strong outbound travel from emerging markets, especially India and Russia but also from smaller Asian and Arab source markets.

At the same time, the global economic slowdown, the uncertainty related to the Brexit, as well as geopolitical and trade tensions may prompt a “wait and see” attitude among investors and travellers.

Overall, 2019 is expected to see the consolidation among consumers of emerging trends such as the quest for ‘travel to change and to show’, ‘the pursuit of healthy options’ such as walking, wellness and sports tourism, ‘multigenerational travel’ as a result of demographic changes and more responsible travel.

“Digitalisation, new business models, more affordable travel and societal changes are expected to continue shaping our sector, so both destination and companies need to adapt if they want to remain competitive”, added Pololikashvili.

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World Forum on Gastronomy Tourism to Analyse the Sector’s Potential

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The countdown begins for the 5th World Forum on Gastronomy Tourism to be held on 2 and 3 May in Donostia-San Sebastián, organized by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the Basque Culinary Center (BCC). International experts will analyse and discuss the influence and capacity of gastronomy tourism to create employment and promote entrepreneurship and how to increase its potential in the future.

Stimulating employment

The Forum will explore how the most favourable frameworks can be created in order to stimulate job creation and entrepreneurship throughout the gastronomy tourism value chain. In addition, the speakers will try to identify the most relevant skills for this type of tourism, which should foster synergies among emerging companies, promote the inclusion of disadvantaged groups and take full account of digitalization. The event will bring together speakers and experts from all regions of the world, as well as internationally renowned Basque chefs such as Elena Arzak, who is a UNWTO Ambassador for Responsible Tourism and joint head chef of the restaurant Arzak, and Andoni Luis Aduriz.

In addition, the event will host the presentation of the UNWTO/BCC Guidelines for the Development of Gastronomy Tourism.

Sessions and startups

The forum will open with a high-level panel with ministers and secretaries of state from countries that have included gastronomy tourism as part of their strategies, such as Cyprus, Slovenia or Spain, among others. Under the theme, “Public policies as key ingredients to promote gastronomy tourism”, the participants will discuss the necessary political framework for the development of gastronomy tourism as well as its capacity to create jobs and promote entrepreneurship.

In addition to shedding light on the competencies needed to meet the demands of gastronomy tourists, the sessions will encourage the creation of environments that stimulate entrepreneurship, that connect emerging companies and better integrate disadvantaged groups in the labour market. Issues related to local communities or to under-represented groups, such as women, youth and persons with disabilities, will also be discussed. In addition, topics such as the digitalization of the sector will also be analysed in order to identify the new opportunities they offer to companies. In addition, the latest advances in the creation of the necessary framework to stimulate entrepreneurship will be presented, connecting the different ecosystems with the startups that are part of the value chain of gastronomy tourism.

In this context, the five finalist startups of the First Global Gastronomy Tourism Startup Competition, organized by the UNWTO and the BCC, will present the most innovative projects in line with the UNWTO’s strategy and the contribution of gastronomy tourism to the sustainable development goals.

The programme of the Forum is complemented by nine visits that will allow the participants to take part in different experiences related to gastronomy in the Basque Country.

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The Future of Air Transport and Development in Africa

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The First Ministerial Conference on Air Transport and Tourism in Africa co-organized by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the Government of Cabo Verde was held in Sal Island, Cabo Verde, attracting over 20 Ministers of Tourism, Transport and Aviation from Africa.

Within the framework of both the tourism and aviation sectors, the event focussed on bringing key players together to define a unified process for sustainable development. Amongst the topics discussed were proposals that would enable the African States to maximize and balance the benefits of tourism and aviation services throughout the region and obstacles that the region currently faces.

Opening the ceremony, H.E. Jorge Carlos Fonseca, President of Cabo Verde spoke of his nation’s difficulties facing his nation, placing particular emphasis on weakened infrastructure in Cabo Verde and an overall lack of coordination within the region; adding that: “This is a very serious obstacle to the goal of making Africa a tourism destination of excellence and the first choice for people from other continents.”

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili welcomed the joint event as two naturally connected sectors, stating “this symbiotic relationship is mutually reinforcing and interdependent. This is especially true for a small island developing state such as Cabo Verde, which is almost fully dependent on air transport access.” He added that “the recent agreement between Cabo Verde Airlines and IcelandAir is a step towards an Atlantic Hub based on the island of Sal. It allows the expansion of Cabo Verde Airlines while representing an efficient public-private partnership”.

Upon closing the event, the Prime Minister of Cabo Verde, H.E. Mr. Ulisses Correia e Silva, hailed the new focus on air transport and tourism as progress for the nation and stressed the importance of creating a framework for the development of air transport and tourism in Africa. The Prime Minister urged African authorities to join together to improve connectivity within the region.

The President of the ICAO Council, Dr. Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu, suggested that this unique joint event between the two organizations was long overdue and has been a testimony to the new dynamics that are taking shape between tourism and air transport in Africa.

The conference concluded with the approval and adoption of the Ministerial Declaration and Action Plan on Air Transport and Tourism Development in Africa by all ministers in attendance. The Declaration outlines the direction that the signing governments will take in order to advance innovative, sustainable solutions to foster the development of air connectivity and seamless travel in the African continent while building a common understanding and response to the business imperatives through strengthened dialogue between the two sectors.

The conference saw the participation of 300 participants, including 21 Ministers of Tourism, Transport, and Aviation from 34 Member States and 29 International organisations.

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Balearic Islands Poised to Become First Tourism Destination Developed Under 2030 Agenda

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Deploying new resources and actions for the progressive adaptation of the Balearic Islands (Mallorca, Menorca and Formentera) to the objectives of the 2030 Agenda, is one of the main objectives of the agreement signed between the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the IMPULSA BALEARS Foundation. Its aim is to jumpstart the process of the strategic reformulation of tourism in order to make an effective contribution to sustainable development. 

The planning and execution of new projects focused on local sustainability taking into account the tourism production and consumption patterns of the Balearic Islands, close relations with regional actors, harnessing public-private synergies, and the generation of strategic knowledge on the part of the foundation, are among the key features of this cooperation with the UNWTO, as the United Nations agency responsible for promoting tourism as a vehicle for sustainable development.

The establishment of circular economy guidelines in the hotel sector of the Islands and the identification of best practices already being implemented in this regard are among the first initiatives of the agreement. The objectives are to establish a specific approach to the relationship between hotel activity and its surrounding environment, to obtain intelligence that facilitates decision-making in the implementation of responsible consumption and production measures in line with the 2030 Agenda, and to lay down a strategic framework to activate the network of companies in the sector and other stakeholders.

The memorandum of understanding, signed by UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili, and the President of IMPULSA BALEARS, Carmen Planas, will be in force until 31 December 2021.

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