International tourism to reach record one billion travelers in 2012

Thu Dec 6, 2012 4:42pm EST
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By Jim Forsyth

(Reuters) - A record one billion people will travel across an international border as a tourist in 2012, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council.

That means that one in seven people on the planet will participate in world traveling this year, an activity that just a few decades ago was exclusively for the wealthy. The reasons for the upswing range from prosperity in developing countries like China to a perception of a more peaceful world.

The London-based council, whose members include executives of travel companies, compiles global travel data including international airport traffic and visa records. It calculates that the 1 billionth tourist will cross an international boundary on December 13.

"This is an astounding milestone," David Scowsill, president of the council, said in a telephone interview. "There is an inexorable growth in the number of people who want to travel around the world."

While the United States and France remain the two largest destinations for world travel, experts say much of the explosive growth in tourism has been to countries such as Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, and the Ivory Coast, which were off the world tourism map a decade ago.

The top five destinations in the world are Paris, London, New York, Mediterranean resort Antalya, Turkey, and Singapore, the United Nations World Tourism Organization said.

Wendy Morrison, a retiree from Manchester, England, may typify an international traveler. She was in San Antonio, Texas, this week with a friend to visit the Alamo, a Spanish mission famous for a battle between Texans and the Mexican army in 1836.

"I grew up watching Fess Parker on the television," she recalled of the actor who played adventurer Davy Crockett on a popular 1950s television series that dramatized the battle of the Alamo. "And we decided we would pop over here and take a look."   Continued...