Spain Set to Overtake U.S. as World's Second-Most Popular Destination

Trips to the U.S. decreased by 4 percent last year By: Mindy Poder
Spain’s tourism growth is set to outpace the U.S. // © 2018 Getty Images
Spain’s tourism growth is set to outpace the U.S. // © 2018 Getty Images

The Details

United Nations World Tourism Organization

The world’s second-most popular tourism destination may no longer be the U.S. (France is No. 1.) Spain — which hosted an estimated 82 million visitors in 2017 — is set to overtake the U.S., according to the latest United Nations World Tourism Organization World Tourism Barometer.

Why It Matters:
Last year, the number of trips taken by travelers increased by 7 percent — the highest in seven years. Trips to the U.S., however, decreased by 4 percent. Some analysts believe the slump can be attributed to President Donald Trump’s policies on immigration and travel, as well as the strong U.S. dollar. Agents can be trendsetters by spreading messages of acceptance and respect to the countries they visit — and instructing their clients to do the same.

Fast Facts:
- Official numbers will be published in April.

- According to United Nations World Tourism Organization, seven percent growth is well above the usual 4 percent growth. 

- Regions experiencing growth in 2017 include Europe (8 percent), Africa (8 percent), Asia and the Pacific (6 percent), the Middle East (5 percent) and the Americas (3 percent).

- Leading the Americas is South America, which experienced a 7 percent increase in visitors, followed by Central America and the Caribbean (both at 4 percent increase). 

- Part of the increase is being attributed to a rebound in tourism spending from Brazil and the Russian Federation.

- Growth is expected to continue in 2018 at a projected 4 to 5 percent.

What They Are Saying:
“International travel continues to grow strongly, consolidating the tourism sector as a key driver in economic development," said Zurab Pololikashvili, secretary general of United Nations World Tourism Organization. "As the third export sector in the world, tourism is essential for job creation and the prosperity of communities around the world. Yet as we continue to grow we must work closer together to ensure this growth benefits every member of every host community, and is in line with the Sustainable Development Goals”.

“The deterioration in demand from key markets such as the United Kingdom and Mexico can be attributable to the less desirable image of the U.S. under Trump following controversial decisions such as the travel ban,” according to tourism analysts at Euromonitor. “But also the strong dollar [acted] as a deterrent, coupled with the current less stable political situation.”

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