Many tourists like to go to places where practically everyone else has been or destinations where they themselves have visited before. That is why the big trends in travel destinations change very slowly. Nonetheless, looking at the UNWTO tourism statistics for 2017, many travelers are also quick to change their destinations when they have a good reason for it. In 2017, the Mediterranean region, especially South Europe and North Africa, was the big winner in international tourist arrivals.
UNWTO World Tourism Barometer annually measures the number of travelers in all regions of the world. The statistics are based on numbers tallied from arrivals of international tourists in destinations around the world. An arrival means that a traveler stays at least one night in the destination.
Global tourism is having a strong growth period. In 2017, the number of international arrivals increased 7% globally. The total number of tourists was 1,322 million. UNWTO, a United Nations organization that collects the statistics, is worried about the growth rate of tourism that may cause problems in specific destinations. The organization believes an annual growth rate of 4% would be sustainable.
Where did tourists travel in 2017?
The strongest growth in international arrivals was in southern Europe and North Africa. Both regions saw an increase of 13% in tourist arrivals. It means that countries around the Mediterranean Sea, apart from the near-east countries, attracted large numbers of visitors.
On the European side of the Mediterranean Sea, countries like Spain, France, Italy, Croatia, Greece and Malta continue enjoying growth of their tourism industries. In some of these countries, overtourism – too many visitors in a small area at the same time – is already a problem for local residents. Venice and Barcelona are examples of destinations where backslashes have happened.
Other Mediterranean countries where tourism is growing are, for instance, Turkey, Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia.
It is possible to travel to a popular destination and avoid the biggest crowds. The trick is to avoid the high season and be there during the low season. The most popular destinations attract visitors at any time of year and at any weather, but it makes a big difference if you have to queue for ten minutes or two hours. UNWTO has statistics (below) that prove the point.
UNWTO expects the growth of international travel to continue in 2018. The forecast from the organization projects international tourist arrivals worldwide to grow at a rate of 4%-5% in 2018. 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%.