Lonely Planet Writer

Tourist numbers hit record levels in 2015 according to UN

World tourism once again reached record numbers in 2015, making it the sixth consecutive year of above-average growth, according to the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

Tourists in Dubrovnik, Croatia.
Tourists in Dubrovnik, Croatia. Image by Dalibor Tomic / CC BY 2.0

International tourist arrivals – meaning travellers who stayed overnight at an international location – hit 1.18 billion last year, up more than 50 million from 2014.

While demand for travel was strong overall, destinations were affected differently due to exchange rate fluctuations, drop in oil prices – which increased disposable income in importing countries but weakened demand in exporters – and increased security concerns, according to the UNWTO.

Europe, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific all showed about 5% growth in international travel in 2015. The Middle East saw an increase by 3%, but Africa showed a 3% decrease – based on limited data – mostly due to a decrease in travel to North Africa.

Overall, international travel grew by more than 4%, making it the sixth year of above-average growth. The UNWTO believes the trend will continue, though at a slightly lower level than 2015 and 2014.

Many of the travellers are coming from China, which continues to lead outbound travel to places like Japan and Thailand, but also to the US and European locations. There was a decrease in travellers leaving Russia and Brazil, which the UNWTO notes reflects the depreciation in their currencies.

The US and UK continued to be large sources of tourists, which was boosting by their strong currencies and rebounding economies.

The UNWTO encourages tourism as a way to contribute to economic growth and job creation in many areas of the world.