Madrid - International tourist arrivals surpassed one billion for the first time last year, with the Asia-Pacific region posting the biggest increase in foreign visitors, and numbers will rise further in 2013, a UN body said Tuesday.
The number of international tourist arrivals grew by 4.0 percent to 1.035 billion in 2012, up from 996 million in 2011, the Madrid-based United Nations World Tourism Organisation said in an annual survey.
“2012 was a year of constant economic instability in the entire world, especially in the euro zone. Despite this international tourism managed to maintain its course,” the body's Secretary General Taleb Rifai told a news conference.
The organisation forecasts international tourist numbers will grow in 2013 although at a slightly lower rate of 3.0-4.0 percent.
The Asia-Pacific region posted the largest growth in visitor arrivals last year with the number of foreign tourists up by 14
million or 6.5 percent to 233 million.
Growth in the number of foreign visitors was highest in Southeast Asia, with the number of arrivals up by 8.7 percent over 2011.
Tourist numbers climbed 4.1 percent in emerging economies compared with a 3.6 percent rise in advanced economies.
The only region to report a decline in tourist numbers compared with 2011 was the Middle East with 2.0 percent fewer arrivals because of political instability in popular tourist spots such as Egypt and Syria.
But the drop in the number of visitors to the region was smaller than the decline of 7.0 posted in 2011, the UN body said.
Asia and Africa are expected to post the greatest growth in tourist numbers this year.
The agency predicts tourist arrivals will increase by 5.0-6.0 percent in the Asia-Pacific region this year and by 4.0-6.0 percent in Africa.
It predicts international tourist arrivals will rise by an average of 3.8 percent each year between 2010 and 2020 and will reach 1.8 billion in 2030. - Sapa-AFP