International Tourists Arrivals and Receipts, 1950-2017

International Tourists Arrivals and Receipts, 1950-2017

Source: World Tourism Organization.

Since the 1950s, the international tourist industry has seen a spectacular growth with the setting of mass tourism, reaching 1 billion arrivals in 2011. One of the most significant change in global tourism was when in 1999 China started its Approved Destination Status (ADS) program. This program allowed Chinese citizens to travel to selected destinations as long as it was part of an organized tour group. Australia and New Zealand were the first western countries to be granted that status in 1999. Most European Union countries granted ADS in 2004 and the United States in 2008. This allowed millions of Chinese tourists to travel abroad, with a corresponding surge in receipts.

Tourism is an industry characterized by an intense level of competition, since the products often tend to be similar, notably for resort tourism where one destination can be substituted for another. While in periods of recession a stabilization or a small drop in the number of arrivals is observed, receipts are impacted to a greater extent. This implies that people may still travel but will spend less at an aggregate level. This underlines that tourism remains a discretionary activity that can be easily forfeited or scaled down. The perception of security is also an important factor since in recent years tourism to major destinations such as Egypt has declined because of concerns following terrorist attacks on tourism complexes.