Lonely Planet Writer

We travelled more than ever last year, according to new UN figures

If you love travel, it seems you’re not alone – international tourist arrivals grew by 7% in 2017, according to newly released stats from the United Nations’ World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

Colorful traditional houses on a rock over Mediterranean sea, Manarola, Cinque Terre, Italy Image by ©Solarisys/Shutterstock

The latest UNTWO World Tourism Barometer – which is based on data reported by destinations around the world – reveals that the growth in overnight visitors showed the strongest results in seven years, totalling about 1322 million. The increase is tourism is expected to continue this year, growing at a rate of 4% to 5% in 2018.

While Europe is one of the world’s most tried-and-true travel destinations, the continent saw a nice boost in visitors, led mostly by its Mediterranean destinations. The region saw 8% more international arrivals last year than it did in 2016. Africa also saw an 8% spike, while Asia and the Pacific had an increase of 6%. It was followed by the Middle East – which had a 5% boost in international visitors. The Americas only had 3% growth, though South America had 7% growth, followed by Central America and the Caribbean, which grew at 4%. According to the UNTWO, “robust results in Mexico and Canada contrasted with a decrease in the United States, the region’s largest destination”.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque at dusk, Abu-Dhabi, UAE. Image by ©Boule/Shutterstock

The UNWTO attributes some of the boost to a “global economic upswing” and a rebound in tourism spending from Brazil and Russia after previous declines.  “International travel continues to grow strongly, consolidating the tourism sector as a key driver in economic development. As the third export sector in the world, tourism is essential for job creation and the prosperity of communities around the world.” said UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili in a statement. “Yet as we continue to grow we must work closer together to ensure this growth benefits every member of every host community, and is in line with the Sustainable Development Goals”.

Park Guell in Barcelona, Spain. Image by ©Luciano Mortula/Shutterstock

The results included in the UNTWO report are all based on preliminary data and UN estimates. More data, including the ranking of the most visited countries in the world, are expected in the spring, however, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, recently revealed that Spain has overtaken the US to be the second most-visited country in the world, beating out the US. It’s expected that France, the reigning championing of most popular country for tourists, will keep its crown.