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Global tourist numbers up 4.7% in 2014: UN body

[MADRID] International tourist arrivals rose by 4.7 per cent to 1.14 billion in 2014, with the Americas and Asia posting the strongest growth, but will rise at a slower pace this year, a UN body said on Tuesday.

"Over the past years, tourism has proven to be a surprisingly strong and resilient economic activity," the Madrid-based World Tourism Organisation's secretary general, Taleb Rifai, said in a statement.

The UN body had forecast tourist arrivals to rise by 4.0-4.5 per cent in 2014.

It sees international tourists arrivals growing 3.0-4.0 per cent this year as falling oil prices have a mixed impact on the sector.

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"This will lower transport costs and boost economic growth by lifting purchasing power and private demand in oil-importing economies. Yet, it could also negatively impact some of the oil-exporting countries which have emerged as strong tourism source markets," Mr Rifai said.

International tourism arrivals rose at the fastest rate in the Americas, where numbers grew by 7.0 to 181 million with Mexico posting double-digit growth of 19 per cent from January to November, a spokesman told AFP.

The Asia-Pacific region saw the number of foreign overnight visitors rise by 5.0 per cent to 263 million.

Europe remained the most visited region with 588 million arrivals, more than half of the global total and a 4.0 per cent rise over the previous year.

"International tourism in the Middle East shows signs of rebound with good results in most destinations," the UN body said.

The region attracted 50 million international tourists, a 4.0 per cent rise over 2013.

Figures for spending on travel abroad in 2014 will not be released until April, but the UN body said growth in international tourism receipts is expected to be "fairly close" to the per centage increase in arrivals.

"A pickup in expenditure on international tourism from traditional source markets compensated for the slowdown of the large emerging markets, which had been driving tourism growth in previous years," it said.

Tourists spent US$1.187 trillion on travel abroad in 2013, the last year for which figures are available.