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Parts of North Africa targeted by terrorist attacks suffered a dramatic slump in tourism in 2015.

Visits to the region fell by 8% in 2015, bucking a global upward trend, according to new figures from the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO).

International tourism grew by 4.4% overall to reach a total of 1.18 billion arrivals, the UNWTO said.

But countries such as Tunisia and Egypt – which have both suffered from terrorism – have been hit hard.

Limited UNWTO data for Africa as a whole reveals that tourism was down by 3% to 53 million – with an 8% drop in North Africa and down 1% in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Strong continued growth in other parts of the world meant that global tourism rose, although no individual region saw gains as high as North Africa’s decline.

Europe, the Americas, and Asia and the Pacific all recorded about 5% growth.

Arrivals reached 609 million in Europe, 29 million more than in 2014. Arrivals in the Americas grew 9 million to 191 million and Asia and the Pacific recorded 277 million, 13 million more than last year.

Arrivals to the Middle East increased by 3% to a total of 54 million.

China is among the largest sources of tourists, according to the UNWTO, benefitting Asian destinations such as Japan and Thailand, as well as the US and various European countries.

The number of tourists from Russian and Brazil declined significantly, reflecting the economic constraints in both countries.

Expenditure from the US, up 9%, the world’s second largest source market, and the UK, up 6%, was boosted by a strong currency and rebounding economy.

Spending from Germany, Italy and Australia grew at a slower rate of 2%, while demand from Canada and France was “rather weak”.

The UNWTO predicts global tourism growth of 4% in 2016 but said the projections for Africa and the Middle East involved a “larger degree of uncertainty and volatility”.

Secretary general, Taleb Rifai, said: “As the current environment highlights in a particular manner the issues of safety and security, we should recall that tourism development greatly depends upon our collective capacity to promote safe, secure and seamless travel.

“In this respect, UNWTO urges governments to include tourism administrations in their national security planning, structures and procedures, not only to ensure that the sector’s exposure to threats is minimised but also to maximise the sector’s ability to support security and facilitation, as seamless and safe travel can and should go hand in hand.”