Despite a year of global economic uncertainty, more than one billion tourists managed to travel outside their countries’ borders in 2012, according to statistics released by theUnited Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).
The figure marks a new record for international tourism—a rise of 20 million tourists over 2011 and the first time the it has hit one billion.
Given that it’s impossible to know exactly where the monumental billionth arrival truly took place, Mrs. Dale Sheppard-Floyd, a British tourist visiting Madrid, Spain—UNWTO’s headquarters—on December 13 was revealed as the symbolic one-billionth traveler.
Meet the world’s symbolic one-billionth tourist, Mrs. Dale Sheppard-Floyd from the United Kingdom. On the back of the new travel record, the UNWTO launched a campaign to highlight how tourism can create billions of opportunities for growth and development around the world.
Dubbed “One Billion Tourists: One Billion Opportunities,” the UNWTO is asking tourists to make a difference when traveling abroad. It says even the smallest actions can have a major impact if multiplied by one billion
As part of the campaign, the public was asked to vote for a travel tip that would have the greatest benefit on the destinations they visit. The winning piece of advice, revealed on the arrival date of the one-billionth tourist, was “buy local.”
This means tourists are encouraged to buy food and souvenirs locally, or hire local guides, to ensure their spending translates into jobs and income for host communities.
“Your actions count,” said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai, in a news release marking the campaign.
“That is our message to the one billion tourists. Through the right actions and choices, each tourist represents an opportunity for a fairer, more inclusive and more sustainable future.”
Breaking down the numbers
According to the UNWTO, the growth of travel in 2012 “cements tourism’s position as one of the world’s largest economic sectors, accounting for 9 percent of global GDP (direct, indirect and induced impact), one in every 12 jobs and up to 8 percent of the total exports of the world’s least developed countries.”
In terms of where all these tourists are coming from, UNWTO breaks it down as follows: Europe, 53 percent; Asia-Pacific, 22 percent; the Americas, 17 percent; the Middle East, four percent; Africa, three percent. The final one percent was not specified.
Fifty-one percent traveled to or in Europe, 22 percent in Asia-Pacific, 16 percent in the Americas, six percent in the Middle East and five percent in Africa.
And why do they travel? UNWTO says 51 percent are hitting the road for leisure/recreation/holidays, 27 percent to visit family/friends or for health reasons, 15 percent for business/professional and 7 percent not specified.