How Many Tourists Travel Each Year? I Did Some Research!

Many people take great pride in planning their trips as travel. The travel industry is booming, especially in the United States, where over 7.6 trillion U.S. dollars were spent on travel in 2016. That means that travel spending affects many industries, including entertainment and attractions, accommodation, transportation, and other necessities like eating, which costs an extra 2.3 trillion U.S. dollars yearly as well.

So, how many tourists travel each year? The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) averages that in 1950, there were only 25 million tourist arrivals. However, 68-years later, in 2018, that number has skyrocketed to 1.4 billion international visitors per year. That means a 56-fold upswing in less than a century.

While there is a bevy of tourists traveling each year, much of the tourism depends on where people vacation. So, destinations can vary, with France and the United States being some of the most popular places to go in the world. However other, smaller countries are quickly growing into popular tourist destinations and gaining plenty of economic benefits in turn.

How Many Tourists Travel Each Year? ( I Did Some Research!)

According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, by 2025, we’ll see about 1.8 billion international visitor arrivals yearly. That will be a 58% jump from the 1.1 billion international arrivals that came into the country back in 2014.

The arrival of these international tourists into the United States makes up America’s burgeoning travel industry. 

The travel industry boom in the United States is growing faster than the broader global economy is in general. 

However, the money tourists spend in their own countries dwarfs that of what international tourists spend when they move into international areas.

Interestingly, the increased spending we see when tourists travel abroad isn’t likely to decline shortly. Increased spending when going out of the country is a typical pattern shared by most tourists, and its part of the intrinsically rewarding experience of splurging on an international trip.

If you think about the fact that global domestic travel spending comprised 72% of travel and tourism’s additions to the worldwide GDP last year, then it’s easy to see how domestic travel spending is now growing a bit faster when compared to foreign visitor spending. 

In 2015, that spending was around $3.7 trillion.

The total global dollar amount for annual domestic tourist spending in the United States will double what foreign visitors spend by 2025. Those statistics factor in although the amount of yearly international travelers arriving in America continues to be on the rise.

Taking a close look at the United States, these statistics can be verified. In the United States, about 129 million international arrivals will come in yearly by 2025. This arrival information is expected even though the amount of foreign visitor spending in the United States is below the global average at 20%.

Since the amount of spending done by domestic travelers in the United States will be over $1 trillion yearly by the time, we reach 2025 and squash the 279.4 billion international visitors will spend in the United States. 

So, as tourism continues to rise, destinations should take the time to capitalize on the spending power of their local attractions.

Also, there’s a new country that’s breaking vast ground in tourism. For the first time, China’s travel industry will become a more significant percentage of its overall GDP compared to what the U.S. travel industry will contribute to the total GDP of the United States.

So, a decade or so down the road, the United States will still lead the way in international visitor arrivals. However, China will trail by only a small percentage, about six million visitors. Also, the domestic market of China will be more robust than that found in the United States by that time.

One reason why China’s tourism spending is growing has to do with advanced planning typically done by the Chinese government. Currently, the Chinese government is constructing nine new airports. That will mean all Chinese citizens will live within a 90-minute drive from an airport.

However, the United States’ still invests more in travel in tourism compared to traveling in Asia. Only Europe ever trumps the United States in that area.

Statistics Covering International Travel

Considering the statistics given by a variety of destinations all over the world, international tourist arrivals, including overnight visitors, worldwide shot up by 7% in 2017. 

That means that the travel industry has been coming in well above the consistent trend of 4% or higher growth since 2010. 

Also, the increase to 7% we saw in 2017 was the best results we’d seen displayed by the travel industry in seven years.

Tourists are most often going to Mediterranean destinations and Europe lately. 

Europe especially racked in high statistics for its large area and age, with international arrivals increasing by 8% in 2016.

In Africa, the 2016 rebound in travel they experienced continued to go up in 2017, showing sustained growth in many parts in the country. 

Those growth areas also demonstrated a significant recovery in the regions that dropped in Africa in previous years.

Other growth areas included Asia and the Pacific with a 6% growth increase, the Middle East, with a 5% growth increase, and a 3% increase in the Americas.

The trends seen in Africa were characteristic of many other countries found throughout the world in 2017. 

That year, many destinations firmly recovered where decreases happened in years before. The global economic upswing helped increase the popularity of travel in 2017.

Also, the demand for travel in several traditional and emerging markets that require people to move around often affected these numbers. 

For instance, we saw a rebound in tourism spending in Brazil and the Russian Federation after witnessing declines the previous few years.

We continue to see international travel growing across the world. That means tourism is emerging as a critical area of economic development across the globe. 

Now the third export sector in the world, tourism is creating many jobs worldwide and allowing for economic expansion and recovery after the depression.

While tourism is experiencing such an enormous boom worldwide, people need to work closely together and make sure growth benefits all members of the host community. Especially in third world countries where tourism is booming, the primary goal should be sustainable development goals.

Decade by Decade Breakdown of Tourists Traveling Each Year

Throughout the decades the majority of Tourism around the world has taken place in Europe. Europe has also seen the most significant increase in tourism compared to all other world regions.

Ranking for Annual Tourism:

Year Ranking & Total Tourists
1950 1. Europe
2. Americas
3. Asia and the Pacific
4. Africa
5. Middle East

Total Tourists: 25.20 Million

1960 1. Europe
2. Americas
3. Asia and the Pacific
4. Africa
5. Middle East

Total Tourists: 69.40 Million

1970 1. Europe
2. Americas
3. Asia and the Pacific
4. Africa
5. Middle East

Total Tourists: 165.80 Million

1980 1. Europe
2. Americas
3. Asia and the Pacific
4. Africa
5. Middle East

Total Tourists: 278.10 Million

1990 1. Europe
2. Americas
3. Asia and the Pacific
4. Africa
5. Middle East

Total Tourists: 439.40 Million

2000 1. Europe
2. Americas
3. Asia and the Pacific
4. Africa
5. Middle East

Total Tourists: 686.60 Million

2010 1. Europe
2. Americas
3. Asia and the Pacific
4. Africa
5. Middle East

Total Tourists: 950.80 Million

2018 1. Europe
2. Americas
3. Asia and the Pacific
4. Africa
5. Middle East

Total Tourists: 1.4 Billion

Let’s dive into each decade starting from the 1950s to today. We’ll see the progression of trends as other countries grow in tourism while others declined. 

Traveling in the 1950s 

Tourism in Europe in 1950 was at 16.8 million people annually, whereas combined tourism to the Americas only reached 7.5 million people. 

During the 1950s tourism throughout Africa was around 500,000 people annually, with approximately 200,000 people visiting the Middle East and Asia. 

Traveling in the 1960s 

During the 1960’s tourism to Africa increased to 800,000 annual visitors. Tourism to the Middle East increased to 600,000 tourists every year. Throughout Asia and the Pacific, 900,000 people visited annually. 

  • 16.7 million people visited the Americas during the 1960’s on average. 
  • Europe saw a total of 50.40 million people visiting on an annual basis which was substantially larger than all other areas of the world combined. 

Traveling in the 1970s 

In 1970, 1.9 million people visited the Middle East, while 2.4 million visited Africa. Tourism to Asia and the Pacific increased to 6.2 million people. 

Tourists traveling to the Americas both North and South reach 42.3 million people. 

Still, Europe was by far the most frequently visited area of the world with 113 million tourists visiting on an annual basis. 

Traveling in the 1980s 

In the 1980s 7.2 million people visited Africa while 7.1 million tourists visited the Middle East. 

Asia and the Pacific saw an increase of tourist with the total annual tourist region 23 million people. Travel to the Americas brought 62.3 million people. 

The total travel to Europe became significantly larger not just compared to previous decades but compared to the other areas of the world, with 170 8.5 million people visiting on an annual basis. 

Traveling in the 1990s 

During the 1990s, travel to the Middle East did not increase substantially, with 9.6 million annual Travelers. However, travel to Africa increased to 15.2 million people. 

Travel to Asia and the Pacific substantially increased and reached a total of 49.4 million people on an annual basis. 

Closing that gap, traveled to the Americas was not very far ahead at just 86.9 million people each year. 

However, the gap between the number of visitors to any other part of the world and that of Europe was widening with 250.7 million in annual tourist traveling to Europe in the 1990s. 

Traveling in the 2000s 

By the year 2000, travel to Africa reached an average of 27.9 million people each year. Travel to the Middle East saw 24.4 million tourists annually. 

Travel to Asia and the Pacific caught up to the Americas figure from the decade prior, with 89.4 million tourists each year. 

Travel to the Americas saw 128.2 million tourists annually. 

Continuing with the same trend, the gap between European tourism and tourism to any other part of the world continued to increase. 

Europe saw a total of 391 million tourists annually which was just shy of three times higher than the next leading World region, the Americas. 

Traveling in the 2010s 

As of 2010, the total annual number of tourists traveling to Europe reached 489.4 million people. 

Trailing behind in the second most popular destination was Asia and the Pacific at 181.1 million tourists each year. 

The Americas saw a total of 141.7 million tourists on average. The Middle East enjoyed 52.8 million tourists while Africa enjoyed 45.9 million tourists each year. 

Traveling in the Current Decade 

Figures from 2018 indicate that Europe saw 713 million visitors on an annual basis. The Americas only enjoy 217 million tourists. 

Asia and the Pacific saw an increase to a total of 343 million tourists. 

Africa and the Middle East continue to hover around the same figures with the Middle East enjoying 64 million tourists on an annual basis and Africa enjoying 67 million tourists on an annual basis. 

Reasons why Europe is the Most Popular 

There are a few reasons why Europe has remained at the top of the list throughout history.
No longer tie up in wars, the rich history throughout Europe has now been made accessible two travelers from all over the world. 

It is also easier to reach for most people, being centrally located people from all other areas of the world can reach Europe for significantly less than, for example, someone from Asia trying to make their way over to South America. 

The number of tourists on an annual basis has continued to increase steadily it’s not drastically in certain areas, but small decreases in travel to areas like Africa or the Middle East can be correlated to certain: 

  • political strains  
  • disease outbreaks 

As political changes take place, it is also increasingly difficult for tourists to travel to certain areas like North America which has hindered the total number of visitors to this area
, which is why the figures for annual tourists traveling to Asia and the Pacific soon took over second-place as the most popular destination. 

Things to Keep in Mind 

In addition to the aforementioned reasons why Europe remains the most popular and why travel has increased to different destinations, tourism has increased substantially because of things like: 

  • Improved airline safety 
  • Fewer hijacks 

The number of fatal incidents, sabotage, or Airline hijacking has decreased substantially since the 1950s. 

Fatal accidents for commercial airlines were at their highest when this data was taken but have continued to decrease ever since to their lowest point as of 2018. 

The same is true of hijacking and sabotage incidences, which reached a peak during the 1970s but have significantly decreased to their lowest point. 

While safety continues to improve, it is still important to always check with the state department before traveling to any destination around the world so that you know what safety measures to employ, what vaccinations if any are required, and how to practice situational awareness when you are on the ground.

Tourism Will Continue to Grow

With such a definite upswing in growth in tourism expected to continue for at least another year, experts feel a more sustainable pace will start to occur. That means we haven’t yet hit our peak rate of growth, but growth will begin to slow down.

That slowdown of growth follows eight years of increasing expansion after the 2009 economic recession that affected the worldwide economy. 

However, it’s now estimated that international tourist arrivals worldwide will grow by 4-5% over the next year. That’s slightly up from the 3.8% average increase projected initially for 2010-2020.

Europe and the Americas will continue to lead the tourism industry with predictions of growth ranging from 3.5% to 4.5%. In the Pacific, growth will be at 5-6%, Africa 5-7%, and growth for the Middle East by 4-6%.

While it’s expected that the current industry leaders, Europe, and the Americas, will continue to lead the pack with tourism growth, their growth rate won’t be as high as some other countries that are capitalizing on tourism. However, Europe and the Americas will continue to be at the front of the tourism industry, at least for the next decade or so.

Total Number of Tourists Worldwide

In 2017, international tourist arrivals in Europe totaled 671 million, which was up 8% from the previous year. There was much tourism taking place in Southern and Mediterranean Europe, which saw an increase of 13% in tourism since 2016. 

Western Europe saw a 7% growth increase, and Northern Europe and Central and Eastern Europe were all up by 5%.

Asia and the Pacific recorded 324 million international tourist arrivals in 2017. That was a tourism increase of 6% from the previous year. 

South Asia saw the most significant growth rate at 10%, followed by South-East Asia at 8%, and Oceania at 7%. North-East Asia saw a 3% increase from the previous year.

The Americas saw a 3% increase in 2017, with 207 million international tourist arrivals that year. The largest area for growth that year was south America at 7%, followed by Central American and the Caribbean at 4%. 

That was some positive news for the Caribbean, who is still recovering after hurricanes Irma and Maria.

North America saw a 2% increase overall, with most of that happening in Canada and Mexico. The United States, which is the area’s largest destination, was the only area showing signs of a decrease.

Africa saw an 8% increase the same year, with a new record of 62 million international arrivals. North Africa demonstrated a 13% increase in tourist arrivals, while Sub-Saharan Africa had a 5% increase.

In the Middle East, there were 58 million international tourist arrivals recorded in 2017. Those statistics are up 5% from the previous year. The Middle East continues to show robust and sustained tourism growth.

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