Exports generated by international tourism reached $1.7 trillion (Sh170 trillion) in 2018, a four per cent increase in real terms over the previous year, a new report from the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) shows.
For the seventh year in a row, tourism exports grew faster than merchandise exports - by over three per cent - reflecting solid demand for international travel in a generally robust economic environment.
Strong growth in outbound travel from many source markets around the world fuelled revenues from international tourism.
This accounted for 29 per cent of global service exports and seven per cent of overall exports of goods and services.
“These figures consolidate international tourism among the top five economic sectors in the world, behind chemical manufacturing and the fuel industry but ahead of the food and automotive industries,” said UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili.
“Rather than growing in volume we need to grow in value. We are pleased to see that both emerging and advanced economies around the world are benefiting from rising tourism income.”
He added that revenues from international tourism translate into jobs, entrepreneurship and a better situation for local economies while reducing trade deficits in many countries.
Tourism constitutes a key source of foreign exchange and a major tool for export diversification for many destinations.
International tourism receipts increased four per cent in real terms (adjusting for exchange rate fluctuations and inflation) to reach $1,448 billion (Sh144 trillion) in 2018, about $100 billion (Sh10 trillion) more than the previous year.
This is consistent with the six per cent increase in international tourist arrivals in 2018.
By regions, Asia and the Pacific led the way with seven per cent growth in international tourism receipts, followed by Europe with a five per cent increase
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