The world’s largest tourism spenders

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Over the past few decades, the world has seen a steep increase in international tourism, as the world has become more globalized and advances in transportation have increased mobility and brought down travel costs. Wealth and prosperity have also contributed to an increase in international travel, particularly in countries like China, where a growing middle class has clearly shown an appetite for exploring the world in the past decade.

World Tourism Day, celebrated annually on September 27, serves as a global recognition of the vital role that tourism plays in our world. The day was established and first observed by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) in 1980 to celebrate tourism’s social, cultural, political and economic value. Tourism not only has the power to foster understanding between nations and promote cultural exchange, but it is also an important driver of economic growth and development. Especially for smaller countries that aren’t rich in resources and don’t play a major role in global trade, tourism is often a key export sector, attracting foreign capital and creating wealth by fostering the domestic service sector, particularly in hospitality, transportation and entertainment.

As our latest Racing Bars video, based on UNWTO data, shows, outbound tourism spending by Chinese travellers increased more than tenfold between 2006 and 2019, catapulting China to the top of the international tourism spending ranking, a position it even held through the pandemic, despite widespread travel restrictions. Aside from China, the United States have been at or near the top of the ranking for the past three decades, with travellers from Germany, France and the UK also spending freely abroad. The ranking nicely reflects the rise in prosperity in certain countries, with the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and India all entering the top 10 at some point in the past five years.


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