The US suffered a fall in foreign tourists in 2017 as global numbers grew by a “remarkable” 7%, latest UN World Tourism Organisation figures reveal.
The total number of international tourist arrivals reached more than 1.3 billion last year, the strongest results in seven years, according to the preliminary data.
The “strong momentum” is expected to continue in 2018 at a rate of 4% to 5%.
Europe and the Americas are both expected to grow by 3.5%-4.5%, Asia and the Pacific by 5%-6%, Africa by 5%-7% and the Middle East by 4%-6%.
Led by Mediterranean destinations, Europe recorded “extraordinary results for such a large and mature region” last year, with 8% more international arrivals at 671 million than in 2016.
Growth was driven by travel to southern and Mediterranean Europe (+13%). western Europe (+7%), northern Europe and central and eastern Europe (both +5%).
While the Americas welcomed 207 million international tourists, robust results in Mexico and Canada contrasted with a decrease in the US, the region’s largest destination, the UNWTO said.
South America (+7%) led the region’s growth, followed by Central America and the Caribbean (both +4%), with the latter showing “clear signs of recovery” in the aftermath of hurricanes Irma and Maria.
Africa consolidated its 2016 rebound with an 8% increase. Asia and the Pacific recorded 6% growth, the Middle East 5% and the Americas 3%.
North Africa enjoyed a strong recovery with arrivals growing by 13%, while in Sub-Saharan Africa arrivals increased by 5%.
The Middle East (+5%) received 58 million international tourist arrivals in 2017 with sustained growth in some destinations and a strong recovery in others.
The results were partly shaped by the global economic upswing and the robust outbound demand from many traditional and emerging source markets, particularly a rebound in tourism spending from Brazil and the Russian Federation after a few years of declines.
The UNWTO said: “The current strong momentum is expected to continue in 2018, though at a more sustainable pace after eight years of steady expansion following the 2009 economic and financial crisis.”
The organisation’s secretary general Zurab Pololikashvili said: “International travel continues to grow strongly, consolidating the tourism sector as a key driver in economic development.
“As the third export sector in the world, tourism is essential for job creation and the prosperity of communities around the world.
“Yet as we continue to grow we must work closer together to ensure this growth benefits every member of every host community, and is in line with sustainable development goals.”