As the holiday season approaches, we look at the rise and rise of tourism and find out where the worlds 1.4bn international travellers go on vacation
How many people travel abroad on holiday?
Tourism is on the rise. In 2018 there were a record 1.4bn international tourist arrivals, according to the World Tourism Organization (UNTWO), a rise of 6% over 2017. That doesnt mean 1.4 billion people travel abroad for their holidays, as many people will clock up more than one trip.
But it does mean tourism is playing an increasingly important role in the global economy. In 2018, it was worth about $1.7tn (1.3tn), or about 2% of total global GDP. Even the UNWTO is struggling to keep up, with current figures vastly exceeding expectations.
In 1950 there were 25m international tourist visits, rising to 166m in 1970, and 435m in 1990.
The growth of budget airlines has made travelling more accessible, with passengers able to fly from London Stansted to Dsseldorf for just 7.99. For many Londoners, this costs less than a days commute.
Nikodem Szumilo, associate professor of economics and finance of the built environment at UCL, says the growth of the global tourist industry is partly due to the rise of digital services. The most recent development in the industry was a small revolution of online reviews and online bookings which reduced prices but increased satisfaction, he says. This means that more people travel more often.
What are the most popular destinations?
According to the UNWTO, four-fifths of tourists travel within their own region. Continuing a long term trend, Europe leads the way in overseas visits, receiving 713 million visitors last year alone.
Globally, France leads the way, followed by Spain, the US, China and Italy. The UK is the seventh most visited country in the world.
However, other regions are on the rise. Last year, trips to North Africa rose 10%, and tourism to sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East is also increasing, as demand for unconventional destinations grows.
In 2018, Uber ranked the most visited destinations around the world for its users. The Empire State Building in New York claimed first place, followed by the citys Freedom Tower and CN Tower in Toronto. The Arc de Triomphe and Eiffel Tower in Paris completed the top five.
Buckingham Palace, the only British attraction in the top 15, came seventh ahead of the Berlin Wall, the Vatican, Disneyland and the Egyptian pyramids.
So which country provides the most visitors?
The number of tourists produced by a country tends to correlate with its income and population.
Chinas rising wealth has resulted in a huge growth of tourism abroad, making Chinese people the worlds most abundant tourists. In 2017, Chinese tourists made 143m journeys abroad, followed by Germany (92m), the US (87.8m) and the UK (74.2m).
According to the Office for National Statistics, UK residents consistently make more visits abroad than foreign residents make to Britain. Favoured destinations are Spain, France and Italy. Three in four Britons remain within the EU, but the US was the fourth most visited location for UK citizens last year.
Tourism is growing rapidly in Russia, whose tourist numbers rose by 16% last year. France and Australia are increasingly important players, increasing by 10% and 9% respectively.
Who comes to the UK?
Unsurprisingly, London was the UKs most popular destination, with more than half of all UK visits including a trip to the capital. Edinburgh was the second hottest tourist spot, and Manchester third.
Americans top the list of arrivals, but four-fifths of the UKs most-visiting countries were from Europe.
How important is tourism to the UK?
The tourist industry is responsible for about 2.5% of British GDP. Last year, visitors spent almost 23bn in the UK, though visitor numbers fell slightly on 2017 (a record year).
In spite of this dip, Visit Britain the official tourism board estimates that by 2025 Britains tourism industry could be worth as much as 10% of GDP and will employ more than one in 10 people.
Will Brexit have an impact?
Claudio Milano from Ostelea School of Tourism doesnt think so, calling the supposed link between Brexit and tourism mainly political propaganda.
He said that the most likely impact of Brexit on the tourist industry is on labour patterns. Tourism is a sector which is based on migrant workers, he says. So Brexit will have more of impact on tourisms workforce than on the attractiveness of the UK.