International tourism refers to tourism that crosses national borders. Globalisation has made tourism a popular global leisure activity. The World Tourism Organization defines tourists as people "traveling to and staying in places outside their usual environment for not more than one consecutive year for leisure, business and other purposes". The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that up to 500,000 people are in flight at any one time.
In 2010, international tourism reached US$919B, growing 6.5% over 2009, corresponding to an increase in real terms of 4.7%. In 2010, there were over 940 million international tourist arrivals worldwide. By 2016 that number had risen to 1,235 million, producing 1,220 billion USD in destination spending. The COVID-19 crisis had significant negative effects on international tourism significantly slowing the overall increasing trend.
International tourism has significant impacts on the environment, exacerbated in part by the problems created by air travel but also by other issues, including wealthy tourists bringing lifestyles that stress local infrastructure, water and trash systems among others.
As a result of the late-2000s recession, international travel demand suffered a strong slowdown from the second half of 2008 through the end of 2009. This negative trend intensified during 2009, exacerbated in some countries due to the outbreak of the H1N1 influenza virus, resulting in a worldwide decline of 4.2% in 2009 to 880 million international tourists arrivals, and a 5.7% decline in international tourism receipts.
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the tourism industry due to the resulting travel restrictions as well as slump in demand among travelers. The tourism industry has been massively affected by the spread of coronavirus, as many countries have introduced travel restrictions in an attempt to contain its spread. The United Nations World Tourism Organization estimated that global international tourist arrivals might decrease by 58% to 78% in 2020, leading to a potential loss of US$0.9–1.2 trillion in international tourism receipts.In many of the world's cities, planned travel went down by 80–90%. Conflicting and unilateral travel restrictions occurred regionally and many tourist attractions around the world, such as museums, amusement parks, and sports venues closed. UNWTO reported a 65% drop in international tourist arrivals in the first six months of 2020. Air passenger travel showed a similar decline. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development released a report in June 2021 stating that the global economy could lose over US$4 trillion as a result of the pandemic.
Total volume of cross-border tourist travel
International tourist arrivals reached 1.035 billion in 2012, up from over 996 million in 2011, and 952 million in 2010. In 2011 and 2012, international travel demand continued to recover from the losses resulting from the late-2000s recession, where tourism suffered a strong slowdown from the second half of 2008 through the end of 2009. After a 5% increase in the first half of 2008, growth in international tourist arrivals moved into negative territory in the second half of 2008, and ended up only 2% for the year, compared to a 7% increase in 2007. The negative trend intensified during 2009, exacerbated in some countries due to the outbreak of the H1N1 influenza virus, resulting in a worldwide decline of 4.2% in 2009 to 880 million international tourists arrivals, and a 5.7% decline in international tourism receipts.
World's top tourism destinations
In 2019 there were 1.460 billion international tourist arrivals worldwide, with a growth of 3.7% as compared to 2018. The World Tourism Organization reports the following ten destinations as the most visited in terms of the number of international travelers in 2019.
|1||France||89 million||89.4 million||N/A||2.9|
|2||Spain||83.5 million||82.8 million||0.8||1.1|
|3||United States||79.3 million||79.7 million||0.6||3.3|
|4||China||65.7 million||62.9 million||4.5||3.6|
|5||Italy||64.5 million||61.6 million||4.8||5.7|
|6||Turkey||51.2 million||45.8 million||11.9||21.7|
|7||Mexico||45.0 million||41.3 million||9.0||5.1|
|8||Thailand||39.8 million||38.2 million||4.3||7.3|
|9||Germany||39.6 million||38.9 million||1.8||3.8|
|10||United Kingdom||39.4 million||38.7 million||1.9||2.2|
International tourism receipts
The World Tourism Organization reports that international tourism receipts were US$1.7 trillion in 2018, an increase in real terms of 4% over 2017. The top ten tourism earners in 2018 were:
|1||United States||$214.00 billion|
|5||United Kingdom||$52.00 billion|
International tourism expenditure
The World Tourism Organization reports the following countries as the ten biggest spenders on international tourism for the year 2018.
|2||United States||$144 billion|
|4||United Kingdom||$76 billion|
|9||South Korea||$32 billion|
Euromonitor International Top City Destinations Ranking
|1||Hong Kong||China||27.88 million|
|3||London||United Kingdom||19.82 million|
|7||Dubai||United Arab Emirates||15.79 million|
|8||New York City||United States||13.10 million|
|10||Kuala Lumpur||Malaysia||12.47 million|
World Travel and Tourism Council
|5||São Tomé and Príncipe||30.1%|
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