General Article Global tourism hits record highs – but who goes where on holiday?

Topic Selected: Travel and Tourism Book Volume: 365

As the holiday season approaches, we look at the rise and rise of tourism and find out where the world’s 1.4 billion international travellers go on vacation.

By Molly Blackall

How many people travel abroad on holiday?

Tourism is on the rise. In 2018, there were a record 1.4 billion international tourist arrivals, according to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), a rise of 6% over 2017. That doesn’t mean 1.4 billion people travel abroad for their holidays, as many people will clock up more than one trip.

But it does mean tourism is playing an increasingly important role in the global economy. In 2018, it was worth about $1.7 trillion (£1.3 trillion), or about 2% of total global GDP. Even the UNWTO is struggling to keep up, with current figures vastly exceeding expectations.

In 1950 there were 25 million international tourist visits, rising to 166 million in 1970, and 435 million in 1990.

The growth

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