Sunday 21 July 2019

Spain to overtake US in world tourism rankings as 'Trump slump' continues

UNWTO World Tourism Barometer


Oliver Smith

Spain looks certain to leapfrog the United States to become the world’s second most visited country, the United National World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has said.

Overseas, overnight arrivals to the US fell by around 4pc during the first six months of 2017, compared with the previous year, with many suggesting the divisive presidency of Donald Trump is putting people off visiting.

Spain, on the other hand, saw year-on-year arrivals increase by around 9pc during the first 10 months of the year.

While definitive figures for the whole of 2017 will not be available until spring, the UNWTO said it was all but guaranteed that globally, Spain would comfortably surpass the US and take second spot, behind France.

Going on current projections, around 82.2 million international tourists visited Spain in 2017, up from 75.3 million in 2016, compared with 72.9 million visitors to the US, down from 75.9 million. Spain was above the US in the rankings from 2001 to 2007, but lost its position during the global economic crisis.

The news comes as the Spanish Tourism Office in Dublin expects final figures for 2017 to show around two million Irish trips to Spain, making it a record year.

US President Donald Trump salutes before boarding Air Force One on February 6, 2017 in Tampa, Florida. Photo: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images
US President Donald Trump salutes before boarding Air Force One on February 6, 2017 in Tampa, Florida. Photo: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

France remains the world’s most visited country, with an estimated 88.9 million overseas arrivals last year, up from 82.6 million in 2016.

China and Italy complete the top five.

Top 10 | The world's most visited countries*

  1. France (88.9 million visitors)
  2. Spain (82.2m)
  3. US (72.9m)
  4. China (59.3m)
  5. Italy (57.8m)
  6. Turkey (39.9m)
  7. Mexico (39.3m)
  8. UK (38.7m)
  9. Germany (37.6m)
  10. Thailand (34.7m)

*According to the UNWTO's projections

The 'Trump slump'

Donald Trump’s presidency has coincided with a 3.9pc fall in overseas arrivals, according to the UNWTO, costing the US economy an estimated €157 million a week.

Middle East and Africa have plummeted in particular, falling by 30.2pc and 26.2pc, year-on-year, respectively. Visits to the US from Mexico are down 6.1pc.

The “Trump slump”, as it has been described, has also been profound in Eastern Europe (arrivals from the region are down 11.9pc), South America (down 13pc), Central America (down 10pc) and the Caribbean (down 13.8 per cent).

Only the Asian market has not seen a drop.

Which other countries saw tourism boom in 2017?

Again, figures for 2017 are not finalised, but current projections would suggest that several countries witnessed a remarkable rise in overseas arrivals.

Turkey rebounded from a tough 2016, when tourism fell by 23pc, to report a 29.9pc rise. Japan’s arrivals rose by 18.pc,  India’s by 15.5pc, Indonesia’s by 23.5pc, and Vietnam’s by 27.8pc.

Tunisia, which was declared safe by the UK Foreign Office after two years off the travel map, welcomed 23.4pc more international tourists. Iceland (+16.6pc), Israel (+25.3pct), Nepal (+39.7pc) and Colombia (+21.4pc) also enjoyed a stellar 2017.

Where has tourism fallen?

Given the tensions on the peninsula it should come as no surprise to learn that arrivals to South Korea slumped by 23.9pc. Russia was the only European country to see a significant fall in visitors of 8.4pct.

Hurricane Irma saw arrivals dip to several Caribbean nations, including Antigua and Barbuda (down 7.8pc) and Aruba (down 5.1pc).

How many tourists are there in the world?

It is estimated that total international tourist arrivals increased by seven per cent in 2017 to a remarkable 1.322 billion. This is expected to grow by as much as five per cent in 2018 – to 1.388 billion, the UNWTO says.

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