According to the latest data from the UN's World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), the world's destinations generated US$1.23trn in income from international travellers in 2015, comprising accommodation, food and drink, entertainment, shopping and other services.
This marks an increase of 3.6 per cent year-on-year, and when added to the US$210 billion spent by international travellers on passenger transport services, the total value of tourism exports last year rises to US$1.4trn, or US$4bn per day on average.
International overnight visitor arrivals increased by 4.4 per cent in 2015, reaching a total of 1.18bn.
"Tourism is today a major category of international trade in services," said UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai, who was speaking in the Cuban capital, Havana. "Despite a weak and slow economic recovery, spending on international tourism grew significantly in 2015, proving the sector's relevance in stimulating economic growth, boosting exports and creating jobs for an increasing number of economies worldwide."
International tourism now represents 7 per cent of total world exports and 30 per cent of services exports. It is now the world's third largest industry in terms of value, behind fuels and chemicals. But in many developing countries, tourism is the largest industry.
Growth in tourism revenues was fairly steady across the world's regions in 2015, with Asia Pacific, the Americas and Middle East all increasing 4 per cent, Europe growing 3 per cent and Africa increasing 2per cent. The US (US$178bn), China (US$114bn), Spain (US$57bn) and France (US$46bn) remain the top destinations for international tourism receipts.
In terms of outbound tourism, China's spending power continued to surge in 2015, rising 25 per cent to US$292bn. This was driven by a 10 per cent rise in outbound travellers from China, which totalled 128 million. The US, Germany, UK and France were the next biggest spending markets, but trailed a long way behind China; US outbound spending of US$120bn was less than half that of China.
"As prices of raw materials have decreased, tourism has shown a strong capacity to compensate for weaker export revenue in many commodity- and oil-exporting countries," said Rifai. "Tourism is increasingly an essential component of export diversification for many emerging economies as well as several advanced ones."