Tourist numbers top 700 million


For many, the preliminary world tourism statistics for 2002 will come as a surprise.

For the first time in history, the number of international tourist arrivals has exceeded the 700 million mark, and despite all the grim expectations and debates about the crisis, the year ended with a 3.1 per cent increase.

Tourism has once again proven its resilience. In total, according to the preliminary data sent to the World Tourism Organisation from official sources throughout the world, almost 715 million international tourist arrivals were registered last year.

That is 22 million more than in 2001 or, compared with the "millennium year" which many experts claim should be taken as the reference, almost 19 million more than in 2000.

"The results we have are credible and give a rather clear picture," says Augusto Huescar, WTO Chief of Marketing Intelligence and Promotion.

He also underlines that International Tourism Arrivals (ITA) count only part of world tourism, in which domestic markets are not included. The latter has profited a great deal during tourism's greatest crisis, especially in the United States.

Data on tourism receipts are not yet available, since they require a more a complex methodology. "We can be relatively satisfied with the year 2002 and cautiously optimistic about the development of 2003. The statistics did meet our expectations, in some parts of the world they even exceeded them, however we should not forget that the threats are not yet over. We have a lot of work to do to reaffirm positive trends, says Frangialli.