More than 1 bn arrivals seen globally in 2012
International tourist arrivals passed the 1-billion mark for the first time last year, with the Asia-Pacific region posting the world's biggest increase in foreign visitors, and numbers will rise further in 2013, a United Nations body said yesterday.
More than 22 million tourists visited Thailand last year, up nearly 16 per cent from the previous year, marking a record high for the Kingdom, industry sources said.
Worldwide, the number of international tourist arrivals grew by 4 per cent to 1.04 billion in 2012 from 996 million in 2011, the Madrid-based World Tourism Organisation said in an annual survey.
Secretary-general Taleb Rifai told a news conference that 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 organisation forecasts international tourist numbers to grow this year although at a slightly lower rate of 3-4 per cent.
The Asia-Pacific region posted the largest growth in visitor arrivals with the number of foreign tourists up by 14 million or 6.5 per cent to 233 million.
Growth in foreign visitors was the highest in Southeast Asia, with arrivals up by 8.7 per cent.
Tourist numbers climbed 4.1 per cent in emerging economies, compared with a 3.6-per-cent rise in advanced economies.
The only region to report a decline in tourists was the Middle East, with 2.0 per cent fewer arrivals because of political instability in popular tourist spots such as Egypt and Syria. But the drop in 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 tourists this year.
The agency predicts tourist arrivals will increase by 5-6 per cent in the Asia-Pacific region this year and by 4-6 per cent in Africa.
It predicts international tourist arrivals will rise by an average of 3.8 per cent each year from 2010-20 and will reach 1.8 billion in 2030.
A study commissioned by tourism-technology provider Amadeus has pointed out that Asia's tourism industry must prepare for major changes in the next 20 years, including a projected boom in travel by senior citizens and female executives.
The days when Asians toured in large groups are disappearing, according to the study, resulting in the industry being fragmented into niche markets.
"Significant new traveller segments will emerge, such as the female business traveller, the small business traveller and the senior traveller, all of which have different aspirations and requirements from the travel experience," it said.
One of the fastest-growing segments is travel among those over 65 as Asia's population ages.
More women are also travelling as many Asian women rise on the corporate ladder, said the study, which covered Australia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore and South Korea. China is expected to have the biggest rise in the number of outbound travellers aged over 65, with the figure projected to rise to 12.6 million by 2030 from only 1.7 million in 2011, it said.
Outbound senior travellers from India are projected to jump to 7.3 million from 1.3 million over the same period, with Indonesia forecast to register a fourfold growth in senior travel, the study said.
"The female business traveller is another rapidly growing opportunity," said the study, projecting that international business trips by women should grow 400 per cent by 2030 from 2011 levels.
Record visitors in Thailand
According to the Ministry of Tourism and Sports, a record 22.3 million foreigners visited Thailand in 2012, led by Chinese (2.7 million), Malaysians (2.5 million), Russians (1.3 million), Japanese (1.3 million), Koreans (1.1 million), British (870,164) and Germans (681,566).
"Last year, the world was generally at peace and there were no major geopolitical, economic, environmental or natural disasters and no health pandemics," said Suraphon Svetasreni, governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand.
Tourism is Thailand's leading source of foreign exchange.
The TAT targets 24.5 million tourists this year.