The number of tourists that travelled around the world in the first half of 2012 reached 467 million, according to the September World Tourism Barometer released by the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO).

International tourism is set to be on track to hit one billion by end of 2012, the UN agency said.

In 2011, international tourist arrivals reached 990 million generating receipts of $1.2 trillion, according to the Barometer.

Between January and June 2012, international arrivals were up in all regions with Asia and the Pacific recording 8% increase. Leading the growth by region boosted by the recovery of Japanese inbound and outbound tourism as well as by the continued strong performance of other major source markets throughout the region.

?The number of international tourists worldwide grew by 5% between January and June 2012 compared to the same period of 2011 (22 million more),? the UNWTO said despite the fall in he global economy.

?Amid the current economic uncertainty, tourism is one of the few economic sectors in the world growing strongly, driving economic progress in developing and developed countries alike and, most importantly, creating much needed jobs,? said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai.

Africa recorded an increase of 7%, pushed by the return of tourist flows to Tunisia which reflected in the results of North Africa (+11%), the Barometer noted.

Despite continuing economic volatility in the Eurozone, the UNWTO observed that Europe?s tourism growth recorded 4% consolidating its record growth of 2011.

The Americas? 5% growth, was in line with the world average, with Central America (+7%) and South America (+6%) recording the strongest results.

In terms of outbound markets, and among the top ten countries by expenditure on travel abroad, growth was significant in China (+30%), the Russian Federation (+15%), USA (+9%), Germany (+6%) and Canada (+6%).

On the other hand, growth was comparatively slow or negative in the UK, Australia, Italy and France.

The World Tourism Barometer is a regular publication of UNWTO aimed at monitoring the short-term evolution of tourism and providing the sector with relevant and timely information.

By Ekow Quandzie

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