International tourism increased by 4.4% in 2015, continuing a sixth consecutive year of above-average growth, reports the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). The year saw a record 1.2 billion tourism arrivals, revealing resilience in the sector globally, despite ongoing economic recession and a spike in terrorist attacks in many popular tourist destinations. 

Tourists were designated in the report as “overnight visitors”, of which there were roughly 50 million more in 2015 than in 2014. Exchange rates, oil prices, and both natural and manmade crises around the world, contributed to the year’s results.

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Europe, the Americas and the Asia-Pacific region drove this trend, each recording approximately 5% growth in 2015. Middle East arrivals increased by 3% while Africa witnessed an estimated 3% decrease, according to UNWTO. This decline was due mainly to a loss of visitors to north Africa, which accounts for more than one third of arrivals in the region, and suffered crippling terrorist attacks during the height of tourist season.

“The robust performance of the [tourism] sector is contributing to economic growth and job creation in many parts of the world,” said UNWTO secretary-general Taleb Rifai. “It is thus critical for countries to promote policies that foster the continued growth of tourism, including travel facilitation, human resources development and sustainability.”