It may be a record, but it’s off the pace…
Since the United Nations 2017 World Tourism rankings came out this year, an asterisk has remained. Despite being smaller than the state of Texas alone, France continued its reign at the top, and another country, also about the size of Texas crept into the second spot: Spain. The two countries tourism grew by 5% and 8% respectively from the 2016 ranking to 2017. After much adieu, the United States has finally released official numbers for 2017, after withholding data for an extended period, and the official numbers make it the slowest country for tourism growth amongst the world’s most visited countries…
The official numbers released by the U.S. Tourism Office signal a 2% rise in tourism, with 77 million visitors spending at least one night in the country, a new record. This is an improvement over what many feared would be a year without growth, when an early 2% decrease was widely expected. The only problem: it’s wildly lower than all but one of the other top 10 most visited countries. The only other country to experience growth below 5% was China, with 2.5%. A 12% decrease in U.S. visitors from the Middle East could factor into the equation.
Worldwide, the rankings account for 1.32 billion tourists. With a world population just over 7 billion people, that means 1 in 7 people traveled internationally in 2017. Before you say “who cares”, there’s just one more thing: tourism is BIG business. Despite the US numbers falling below trend, the 77 million international visitors brought in 251.4 billion dollars to the U.S. economy, which supports more than 1.2 million jobs. Here’s the number of visitors to each country, and the percentage change from 2016 to 2017, according to Wikipedia.
1. France 86.9 million 5.1
2. Spain 81.8 million 8.6
3. United States 77.0 million 2.0
4. China 60.7 million 2.5
5. Italy 58.3 million 11.2
6. Mexico 39.3 million 12.0
7. United Kingdom 37.7 million 5.1
8. Turkey 37.6 million 24.1
9. Germany 37.5 million 5.2
10. Thailand 35.4 million 8.6
As airfares hit record lows, tourism plays an increasingly vital role in national economies around the globe. Airlines are ditching larger aircraft in favor of point to point, direct flights and low fares are bringing the impressive number of 1.32 billion tourists even higher. To prepare for the boom, nations are ending draconian visa policies which restrict traveler movement and spending large sums on infrastructure to cope. A simple example? Argentina and the U.S. ended a long standing, cumbersome and expensive visa policy for U.S. visitors headed to Argentina, and travelers can now enter visa free for 90 days. In a single year, Argentina’s tourism increased 15.7%. Numbers don’t lie, often.