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World Tourism Set Record In 2006, U.N. Agency Says

February 1, 2007 By: Dan Butcher Travel Agent

World tourism broke all records in 2006 despite fears over terrorism, bird flu and rising oil prices, the United Nations tourism watchdog reported Monday. A total of 842 million international tourist arrivals were recorded last year, an increase of 4.5 percent, the Madrid-based World Tourism Organization said, citing preliminary data. That followed a 5.5 percent jump in 2005. But such strong growth figures are expected to slip in the future, the agency said, citing possible energy tax increases imposed to fight global warming. Africa posted the biggest growth rate in 2006 at 8.1 percent. Europe and the Middle East both posted growth rates of 4 percent, while Asia and the Pacific saw an increase of 7.6 percent. The region with the weakest growth was the Americas—just 2 percent—due mainly to stagnation in arrivals in North America, the WTO said. The cheaper U.S. dollar should in theory encourage travelers to head for the U.S., but arrivals from Western Europe, for instance, fell 3 percent. Travel experts cited widespread confusion in long-haul markets over U.S. visa and passport requirements for foreign visitors, the WTO report said. However, the U.S. remained the world's top tourism destination by revenue, followed by France and Spain.

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