UNITED NATIONS: The number of people travelling abroad hit record levels in 2017 with a total of 1,323 million international tourist arrivals recorded in destinations around the world, with India leading the growth in the South Asian region, according to data from the UN's tourism organisation.
The latest edition of its Tourism Highlights shows international arrivals reached 1.323 million last year.
The figure represents an 84 million increase over 2016, and a new record, with the sector also recording "uninterrupted growth" in arrivals for eight consecutive years.
Europe and Africa led the regions with increases in arrivals, with growth of eight per cent and nine per cent, respectively.
The UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO, a specialized agency of the United Nations, added that tourism is the world's third largest export category, earning USD 1.3 trillion in receipts in 2017: an increase of five per cent.
Meanwhile, total exports from international tourism stood at USD 1.6 trillion, or an average of USD 4 billion a day: that is, seven per cent of the world's exports.
"These strong 2017 results were driven by sustained travel demand for destinations across all world regions, including a firm recovery by those that have suffered from security challenges in recent years," The UNWTO said in a press release.
The report said positive results in South Asia were largely driven by the strong performance of India, the "subregion's largest destination, which benefited from increasing demand from western source markets and simpler visa procedures.
In India, international tourists arrivals grew from 14.57 million in 2016 to 15.54 million in 2017.
International tourism receipts for India grew from 22.42 billion dollars in 2016 to 27.36 billion dollars last year.
For South Asia as a whole, international tourists arrivals grew from 25.17 million in 2016 to 26.57 million in 2017.
International tourism receipts for South Asia grew from 33.28 billion dollars in 2016 to 39.52 billion dollars last year.
It said that international tourist arrivals grew 6.8% in 2017, the highest increase since the 2009 global economic crisis and well above UNWTO's long-term forecast of 3.8% per year for the period 2010 to 2020.
Results were driven by sustained travel demand for destinations across all world regions, including a firm recovery of those suffering from security challenges in recent years.
Growth was fuelled by the global economic upswing, resulting in strong outbound demand from virtually all source markets.
"The recovery of outbound demand from Brazil and the Russian Federation after a few years of decline and the ongoing rise of India, also contributed to inbound growth in many destinations," the UN agency said.
Seven of the 10 top tourism destinations are also leaders worldwide in both international tourist arrivals and international tourism receipts: China, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States.
"Strong outbound demand from virtually all source markets, including rebounds from major emerging economies Brazil and the Russian Federation, benefited both advanced and emerging destinations," the agency said.