United Nation’s World Tourism Organization annual report continues to demonstrate the importance of tourism around the world

The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) documents facts and figures annually by region and country in a report that reflect the significance of the industry globally.

Info-graphic UNWTO 2018 Annual Tourism Report.
Photo by United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

Annually I draft an international tourism article for Michigan State University Extension based on information from the United Nations World Tourism Organization. The information is to serve as awareness of the international trends and implications of tourism. This can help us to understand and perhaps shape tourism in our communities, states, and countries.

The World Tourism Organization, an agency of the United Nations, is “responsible for the promotion of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism” and “serves as a global forum for tourism policy and a source of tourism know-how.” They document tourism facts and figures annually by region and country in a report that reflect the significance of the industry globally with long-term outlooks, projected changes, and a review of the previous year’s statistics and figures (decades are highlighted as well).

The 2018 annual report reflects the previous year’s (2017) statistics and changes in the industry.

General Key figures highlighted from  the 2018 annual report continues to fluctuate annually. The UNWTO still considers that-

  • One in ten jobs worldwide is in the tourism industry
  • Tourism accounts for ten percent of the GDP (direct, indirect and induced impact)
  • Tourism is responsible for seven percent of the world’s exports
  • Tourism accounts for 1.6 trillion dollars in exports

Annually, the top ten countries with highest international tourist arrivals has changed since we last reported on this topic in 2016. The countries with the highest international tourist arrivals in 2017 are:

  • France with 86.9 million visitors
  • Spain with 81.8 million visitors
  • USA with 76.9 million visitors
  • China with 60.7 million visitors
  • Italy with 58.3 million visitors
  • Mexico with 39.3 million visitors
  • United Kingdom 37.7 million visitors
  • Turkey 37.6 million visitors
  • Germany 37.5 million visitors
  • Thailand with 35.4 million visitors

While focused on key trends in international tourism by region and nation, the 2017 report does also focus on “purpose of visit” and “mode of transport” as well.

Purpose of visit (inbound):

55 percent of the inbound of tourism in 2017 was for “leisure, recreation, and holidays”. 27 percent of the travelers purpose was for visiting friends and/or relatives (VFR), health, religion or other reasons. Travel for business and/or professional reasons accounted for 13 percent of the international arrivals. Six percent did not specify their reason(s) for purpose of visit.

Mode of transport (inbound):

  • 57 percent arrived via air while traveling abroad.
  • 37 percent of travelers arrived via road to their destination country.
  • four percent of international tourists arrived via water.
  • The remaining two percent arrived via rail.

Knowing tourists’ purpose can help communities and countries to know their customer better and perhaps help shape new and more efficient services and business, which may lead to stronger economies and communities.

Tourism is a major industry for Michigan, one that contributes significantly to the State’s economy. Michigan State University Extension works with local communities throughout the state to identify strengths and assets to leverage for tourism. Residents, business owners, and/or elected officials can learn more about our tourism programs by visiting our website.

UNWTO Tourism Highlights and other publications dating back to 2010 are available.

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