Tourists, tourists everywhere…

Since 2009, tourism numbers have been growing steadily, with each year registering new highs.

It was a record year for tourism in 2013, according to a recent UNWTO (United Nations World Tourism Organization) World Tourism Barometer. A growth of 5% year over year translated into 1.087 billion tourists venturing out to admire and gaze and click at monuments and landscapes all over the globe. That's roughly one person in seven for a world population that the Worldometers website estimates at 7.2 billion.

In 1950, as the UNWTO Tourism Highlights 2013 Edition notes, only 25 million tourists traveled the world. But since 2009, numbers have been growing steadily, with each year registering new highs. The one-billion mark was hit for the first time in 2012.

Europe was still the No. 1 destination in 2013, with 563 million visitors (51.8% of the world share) traveling there. Asia and the Pacific region were next with 248 million visitors, a 22.8% share, and the Americas, with 170 million, a 15.5 % share.

Tourism is a huge industry, representing 9% of world GDP in direct, indirect and induced impacts, according to UNWTO calculations. It harbours one job for every 11, generating US$1.3 trillion in exports and 6% of world exports.

It is also an extremely dynamic sector and offers a welcome contribution to many faltering economies. "The tourism sector has shown a remarkable capacity to adjust to changing market conditions, fuelling growth and job creation around the world, despite the lingering economic and geopolitical challenges," indicates UNWTO Secretary General Taleb Rifai. "Indeed, tourism has been among the few sectors generating positive news for many economies."

The WTO's long-term forecast predicts 1.8 billion travelers in 2030, with the emerging markets absorbing an increasing share of the market. Their 4.4% growth rate is double that of the advanced economies. Already, countries like China and Russia clearly stand out.

Other emerging markets with solid growth in outbound expenditures were Turkey (+24%), Qatar (+18%), Kuwait (+15%) and Brazil (+14%). Comparatively, the United States and Canada grew at 3%.