International tourist arrivals grew by 4 per cent in 2012 to 1.035 billion, rising above the mark of 1 billion for the first time, the United Nations' World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) said Tuesday at its headquarters in Madrid, dpa reported.
Despite economic volatility around the globe, "international tourism managed to stay on course," UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai said.
Emerging economies regained the lead over advanced economies. Tourism in Asia and the Pacific went up by 7 per cent to a total of 233 million arrivals. South-East Asia performed the best, while the recovery of Japanese tourism boosted growth in the north-east as well.
African tourism grew by 6 per cent to 52 million arrivals largely due to a rebound in the north of the continent. The Americas saw a 4-per-cent increase to 162 million tourists.
The number of tourists visiting Europe rose by 3 per cent to 535 million, a result which the UNWTO described as "very positive" in light of the euro crisis. Central and eastern European destinations posted the best results.
Middle Eastern tourism went down by 5 per cent to nearly 53 million arrivals. The decline was less than in 2011, when tourism shrank by 7 per cent.
Growth is expected to continue this year slightly below the 2012 level.