Perspectives Blog

UNWTO 2017 Tourism Arrivals Show Africa is Not a $#%*hole President Trump

January 15th 2018 the UNWTO released preliminary figures on 2017 tourism arrivals and revenues. We will poke a little fun at President Trump who was in the news recently stating that regions such as Haiti and Africa are [explicit]holes. Well the numbers tell a very different story. With the introduction of new US policies and other factors, it is one of the few major countries listed to have a decrease in welcoming international tourism arrivals.

Before we dig into the numbers,  kudos to the UNWTO and contributing tourism researchers who  scrambled to get these stats to us faster than in years past, even if they are preliminary figures*!

International arrivals globally were up 7% in 2017 equalling about 1,322 million. The UNWTO World Tourism Barometer predicts a growth of between 4 and 5% for arrivals in 2018 stating that the growth last year is perhaps not sustainable at such a high rate..

Now lets review trends in each world region…

The Americas hosted  207 million international arrivals averaging 3% growth overall. Subregions were as follows:  

  • South America up7%
  • Central America up 4%
  • Caribbean  up 4%  even amidst hurricanes Irma and Maria which is impressive
  • North America was up 2% on average with robust increases in Mexico and Canada compared with a decrease in the United States!

Asia and the Pacific experienced 6%  growth with 324 million international visitors

Middle East was up 5% to 58 million arrivals*

Europe had 671 million visitors last year, an 8% growth over 2016

Africa: is estimated at 8% averaged across the continent (62 million international arrivals total)*

pexels-photo-247376 royalty free

Well isn’t that interesting–the African continent averaged 8% growth in arrivals and the Caribbean (home to Haiti) experienced 4% growth, while the USA experienced a decline.

So should Mr. Trump really call these regions (bleep)holes when clearly the world travelers have voted with their tourism dollars in favor of them over visiting the US under the current presidency.

Of course this article is a little in jest. A Namibia tourism spoof video was also circulating this week. But in all seriousness, while we do not yet have all the date of why US arrivals are down, its wonderful to see economic growth in developing regions which could certainly use the injection of foreign dollars like post-hurricane Caribbean,  Africa and the Middle East. We must remember that with the growth comes more responsibility to tourism professionals to develop and operate in more sustainable ways to handle the influx of visitors. UNWTO declared last year as the International Year of Tourism for Sustainable Development and we can should take that powerful endorsement to ethically deliver experiences for these 1.322 billion globetrotters.

I have been using sustainable tourism as a tool for poverty alleviation for 2 decades now and am proud to say that if planned well, it indeed does indeed change lives for the better while also providing memorable travel encounters.


Disclaimer from the UNWTO:

*All results in the above are based on preliminary data, as reported by the various destinations around the world, and on estimates by UNWTO of still-missing data. UNWTO will continue to collect data and will present more comprehensive data by country in the April issue of the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer. Results for both Africa and the Middle East should be read with caution as they are based on limited available data.

Helpful links:

UNWTO World Tourism Barometer

UNWTO Tourism Highlights, 2017 Edition

International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development 2017

UNWTO Logo

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