This is how the number of tourists changed over the last 70 years

It’s no longer a daring feat to leave for another country for a week or two and immerse in its natural or architectural wonders. But it was not always such a common phenomenon. Only a few decades ago, the number of travels to foreign lands was a fraction of what it is now, and trips were mostly focused on Europe. We have taken a closer look at the interactive statistics of Our World in Data to find out how the number of international arrivals by world region has changed since the 1950’s.
The first visualisation shows how tourist arrivals have increased since shortly after the Second World War in 1950.

The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) estimates that internationally there were just 25 million tourist arrivals in 1950. 68 years later this number has increased to 1.4 billion international arrivals per year. This is a 56-fold increase.

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The second chart shows the same data in relative terms. In 1950, full two-thirds of tourists arrived in Europe. Over the following 68 years the relative importance declined to around 50%, but it is still the most important touristic region.

Asia and Pacific had only very small importance as a tourist destination in 1950. In 2018 however, every fourth tourist arrived in the region.

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The increasing popularity of Asia is evident, and it has been rising constantly since the mid-1970’s, as the region’s economic development started to take off. The share of the United States from global tourism declined even more than that of Europe. Whereas 68 years ago 30% of tourists arrived in the U.S., this number is only 15% now.

The first year when more tourists visited Asia than the U.S. was 2002. Africa is coming up, though. Where 68 years ago it had 1-2% of all tourist arrivals, it now boasts a share of 4-5%. In terms of numbers this means 1-2 million tourists in 1950 and 67 million in 2018.

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