Tourist arrivals exceed expectation in first half of 2013: UNWTO

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International tourist arrivals exceeded projections in the first half of 2013, with sub- Saharan Africa being among star performers, according to a report released Tuesday by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

The UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, released on the occasion of the 20th general assembly being co-hosted in Zambia and Zimbabwe, said the arrivals grew by 5 percent in the first six months of the year, compared with the same period of last year.

The rate was also higher than the projected growth of 3 percent to 4 percent for the period.

"The fact that international tourism grew above expectations confirms that traveling is now part of consumer patterns for an increasing number of people in both emerging and advanced economies," Taleb Rifai, the UNWTO secretary-general, said in the statement.

He said the phenomenal growth in international tourist arrivals further underlines the need to rightly place tourism as one of the key pillars of socio-economic development and as a leading contributor to economic growth, exports and jobs.

International tourist arrivals in Africa rose by 4 percent in the period, mainly attributed to the continued recovery of North Africa and positive results of sub-Saharan destinations.

The arrivals for the first half of the year reportedly hit 500 million, with growth being stronger in emerging economy destinations, at 6 percent, than in advanced economies at 4 percent. According to the UNWTO, the first semester normally accounts for some 45 percent of the total arrivals of the year. It projects growth to continue in the second half of 2013, but at a gradually slower pace.

"UNWTO forecasts 2013 to end at 4 percent or slightly above, thus exceeding the initial estimate for the year," the statement added. 

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