MADRID, SPAIN, 16 May 2013: Receipts from international tourism worldwide grew by 4% in 2012 reaching US$1,075 billion, according to the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometre released Wednesday.

The revenue growth is equal to a 4% increase in international tourist arrivals which reached 1,035 million trips in 2012.

An additional US$219 billion was recorded in receipts from international passenger transport, bringing the export value generated by international tourism in 2012 to US$1.3 trillion.

UNWTO figures indicate the importance of tourism to economies worldwide and its high employment capability, factors that should encourage governments to raise the profile of their ministries of tourism in national development plans.

Thailand has already designated tourism to its national agenda, a move that officially recognises tourism’s importance to national development. It also requires all ministries and government departments to make tourism a priority and to work closely with the Ministry of Tourism and Sports to achieve national tourism goals.

In the emerging economy destinations category, two countries in the Mekong Region were included on a list of countries earning the highest increases in tourism receipts. Thailand gained 25% and Vietnam and 18%.

According to the UNWTO, international tourism receipts hit a new record in 2012, reaching an estimated US$1,075 billion (euro 837 billion) worldwide, up 4% in real terms, from US$1,042 billion (euro 749 billion) in 2011.

“It is encouraging to see that the growth in international tourist arrivals was equalled by a comparable increase in spending in spite of continued economic challenges” said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai.

“Considering that tourism is a key export for many economies around the world, this result is good news as it provides foreign reserves to destinations, and contributes to job creation in tourism as well as in related economic sectors,” he added.

By regions, the Americas (+7%) recorded the largest increase in receipts, followed by Asia and the Pacific (+6%), Africa (+5%) and Europe (+2%).

Receipts in the Middle East were still down (-2%); yet report a steady improvement compared to the decline recorded in 2011.

In absolute values, Europe saw US$457 billion in tourism earnings (euro 356 billion) equivalent to 43% of the world’s total tourism receipts, the largest share by region.

Destinations in Asia and the Pacific (US$323 billion or euro 251 billion) account for 30% of international tourism receipts and the Americas (US$215 billion or euro 167 billion) for 20%.

Growth in the Asia Pacific region will pick up speed and close the gap with Europe in terms of revenue, but will not surpass Europe over the next decade.

In the Middle East (4% share) total tourism receipts reached US$47 billion (euro 36 billion) and in Africa (3% share) US$34 billion (euro 26 billion).

Except for international tourism receipts (the travel item in the Balance of Payments), tourism also generates export earnings through international passenger transport. The latter amounted to an estimated US$219 billion in 2012, bringing total receipts generated by international tourism to US$1.3 trillion, or US$3.5 billion a day on average.

International tourism (travel and passenger transport) accounts for 30% of the world’s exports of services and 6% of overall exports of goods and services. Worldwide, tourism ranks fifth as an export industry after fuels, chemicals, food and automotive products, while ranking first in many developing countries.

The top 10 ranking destinations by receipts remained virtually unchanged in 2012, with the United States, Spain, France, China and Italy leading, followed by Macau (China), Germany, United Kingdom, Hong Kong (China) and Australia.

A number of the more mature destinations among the world’s top 10 earners showed remarkable results: the United States (+11%), France (+7%), Germany (+6%), the United Kingdom (+5%) and Hong Kong (China) (+14%). Other advanced economy destinations with growth rates of 10% or above include Sweden (+17%), Japan (+33%), the Republic of Korea (+14%) and Finland (+16%).

Among emerging economy destinations the highest receipts growth was reported by Thailand (+25%), India (+22%), Poland (+13%), South Africa (+18%), Egypt (+14%), Vietnam (+18%) and Ukraine (+13%).