International tourism numbers still climbing

United Nations World Tourism Organization publication reflects on the 2012’s tourism facts and figures.

Tourism is a major industry that contributes significantly to economies and employment. In Michigan alone, tourism is to account for nearly 200,000 jobs across the state according to Sarah Nicholls, MSU Faculty. Awareness of the international trends and implications of tourism can help us to understand and shape tourism in our communities. The World Tourism Organization, an agency of the United Nations, is “responsible for the promotion of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism”. Annually they document tourism facts and figures 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. The United Nations tourism agency “serves as a global forum for tourism policy and a source of tourism know-how”, and provides their reports and a number of other resources for free via their website.

UNWTO’s 2013 Edition summarizes a number of trends and statistics based on the research results from 2012. Some of the highlighted areas of the report focus on Gross Domestic Product (GDP), number of jobs the industry provides, as well as exports associated with the industry. Globally:

                •1 in 11 jobs is in tourism

                •Tourism accounts for 9 percent of the GDP

                •Tourism is responsible for the 6 percent of the world’s exports

The report also documents industry growth over 5 year periods and between decades. For example,

  • The number of international tourists grew from 25 million to 1,035 million between 1950 and 2012 (page 2).

In the early pages of the report, the UNWTO shares the growth between regions in international tourist numbers over 5 year periods between 1990 and 2012.

  • North America saw an increase in international visitors of nearly 15 million people between 1990 and 2012 (page 4).
  • The Americas region, which consists of North, South, Central, and the Caribbean, grew close to 70 million over that same time period (page 4).
  • The Asia and the Pacific region saw their international tourist arrivals climb by nearly 15 million people in just one year between 2011 and 2012 (page 4).
  • Between 1990 and 2012 the same region’s international visitors grew almost 200 million (page 4).

These reports are full of relevant information about countries and economies impacted by tourism. While focused on key trends in international tourism by region and nation, the report does also focus on “purpose of visit” as well. 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 and number of jobs. Michigan State University Extension works with local communities throughout the state to identify strengths and assets to leverage for tourism.

Additionally, annual UNWTO Tourism Highlight reports dating back to 2010 are available. 

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