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International Tourist Arrivals Reach 1.4 Billion Two Years Ahead of Forecasts

UNWTOÂ’s long term forecast issued in 2010 indicated the 1.4 billion mark would be reached in 2020, yet the remarkable growth of international arrivals in recent years has brought it two years ahead.

A telescope - Photo by Kyler Boone on Unsplash

International Tourist Arrivals Reach 1.4 billion Two Years Ahead of Forecasts

World Tourism Organization UNWTO

  • 2018 totalled 1.4 billion international tourist arrivals (+6%), consolidating 2017 strong results and proving to be the second strongest year since 2010
  • Middle East (+10%) and Africa (+7%) grew above the world average while Asia and the Pacific and Europe grew at 6%
  • For 2019, UNWTO forecasts a 3-4% increase, in line with the historical growth trend

International tourist arrivals grew 6% in 2018, totalling 1.4 billion according to the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer. UNWTO’s long term forecast issued in 2010 indicated the 1.4 billion mark would be reached in 2020, yet the remarkable growth of international arrivals in recent years has brought it two years ahead.

UNWTO estimates that worldwide international tourist arrivals (overnight visitors) increased 6% to 1.4 billion in 2018, clearly above the 3.7% growth registered in the global economy.

In relative terms, the Middle East (+10%), Africa (+7%), Asia and the Pacific and Europe (both at +6%) led growth in 2018. Arrivals to the Americas were below the world average (+3%).

“The growth of tourism in recent years confirms that the sector is today one of the most powerful drivers of economic growth and development. It is our responsibility to manage it in a sustainable manner and translate this expansion into real benefits for all countries, and particularly, to all local communities, creating opportunities for jobs and entrepreneurship and leaving no one behind” said UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili. “This is why UNWTO is focussing 2019 on education, skills and job creation.”, he added.

UNWTO’s long-term forecast published in 2010 predicted the 1.4 billion mark of international tourist arrivals for 2020. Yet stronger economic growth, more affordable air travel, technological changes, new businesses models and greater visa facilitation around the word have accelerated growth in recent years.

Results by region

International tourist arrivals in Europe reached 713 million in 2018, a notable 6% increase over an exceptionally strong 2017. Growth was driven by Southern and Mediterranean Europe (+7%), Central and Eastern Europe (+6%) and Western Europe (+6%). Results in Northern Europe were flat due to the weakness of arrivals to the United Kingdom.

Asia and the Pacific (+6%) recorded 343 million international tourist arrivals in 2018. Arrivals in South-East Asia grew 7%, followed by North-East Asia (+6%) and South Asia (+5%). Oceania showed more moderate growth at +3%.

The Americas (+3%) welcomed 217 million international arrivals in 2018, with mixed results across destinations. Growth was led by North America (+4%), and followed by South America (+3%), while Central America and the Caribbean (both -2%) reached very mixed results, the latter reflecting the impact of the September 2017 hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Data from Africa points to a 7% increase in 2018 (North Africa at +10% and Sub-Saharan +6%), reaching an estimated 67 million arrivals.

The Middle East (+10%) showed solid results last year consolidating its 2017 recovery, with international tourist arrivals reaching 64 million.

Growth expected to return to historical trends in 2019

Based on current trends, economic prospects and the UNWTO Confidence Index, UNWTO forecasts international arrivals to grow 3% to 4% next year, more in line with historic growth trends.

As a general backdrop, the stability of fuel prices tends to translate into affordable air travel while air connectivity continues to improve in many destinations, facilitating the diversification of source markets. Trends also show strong outbound travel from emerging markets, especially India and Russia but also from smaller Asian and Arab source markets.

At the same time, the global economic slowdown, the uncertainty related to the Brexit, as well as geopolitical and trade tensions may prompt a “wait and see” attitude among investors and travellers.

Overall, 2019 is expected to see the consolidation among consumers of emerging trends such as the quest for ‘travel to change and to show’, ‘the pursuit of healthy options’ such as walking, wellness and sports tourism, ‘multigenerational travel’ as a result of demographic changes and more responsible travel.

“Digitalisation, new business models, more affordable travel and societal changes are expected to continue shaping our sector, so both destination and companies need to adapt if they want to remain competitive”, added Pololikashvili.

UNWTO World Tourism Barometer Presentation

Logos, product and company names mentioned are the property of their respective owners.


SITA and Virgin Atlantic tap new tech for staff training

Aviation faces a jobs and training crisis but new technologies such as augmented reality and virtual reality are staring to help airlines train for safety-critical positions.

When staff are trained in the traditional way, it can be time-consuming and expensive.

A recent IATA jobs study shows that airline human resources professionals are looking for creative solutions that will help simplify training and boost job retention while ensuring high safety standards in critical job functions including cabin crew and ground handlers.

As IATA reports:

  • More than 73% of respondents expect the major areas of job growth to be in ground operations, customer service and cabin crew.
  • 48% report that finding new talent is a challenge, both because of the lack of availability of candidates with the right skill levels and qualifications as well as, in some cases, salary demands of new applicants.
  • In addition to the salary and benefits package of each employee, the HR professionals identified career progression opportunities (49%) and development and training (33%) as high priorities in job satisfaction and retention.
  • Only 28% of respondents reported that current training is effective, with many organizations seeking to complement their in-house training with external partners to improve the effectiveness of the training.

Cabin Crew Augmented Reality App

 Virgin Atlantic and SITA have announced a new augmented reality iOS app which will help cabin crew “walk through the cabin” and get familiar with the airline’s Dreamliner aircraft before ever getting onboard the plane. App training will complement classroom training. As SITA explains in the announcement:

“The AR app simulates the full-size view of the interior cabin, giving crew a feel for their new working environment, including accurate spatial awareness. This allows the airline to train crew on new aircraft in a fun and engaging way from the airline’s headquarters in Crawley, London.”

The application was developed by SITA Lab for Virgin Atlantic as part of an ongoing collaboration between the two companies to introduce new technologies as staff tools. Back in 2014, SITA and Virgin Atlantic trialed AR applications with Google Glass which allowed the airline’s concierge agents to offer more personalized service to customers.

Don Langford, CIO of Virgin Atlantic, said of the new AR cabin crew training app:

“Today innovation is the lifeblood of a modern airline. New technologies such as augmented reality hold out the promise to better manage our airline operations while providing an enriched experience to our increasingly tech-savvy passengers. SITA has long been a partner in exploring the frontiers of technology and this AR application is no exception.”

Gustavo Pina, Head of SITA Lab, said:

“SITA Lab has identified augmented reality as one of the emerging technologies that will benefit the air transport industry in the years to come. Working with pioneering airlines such as Virgin Atlantic makes it possible for SITA Lab to really explore the potential of augmented reality and evaluate its business benefits. This project is a vital step in that journey of exploration.”


IATA developed a more immersive training methodology for training ground crew. RampVR combines virtual reality hardware and software to complement the coursework of IATA training for ground operations professionals. Like the Virgin Atlantic cabin crew app, it also addresses limitations in getting trainees on-site. In the case of ground crew, it can be complicated to arrange access to the airport ramp but RampVR’s images are hyper-realistic and allow the trainee to practice in daytime or nighttime conditions.

IATA has so far developed two RampVR modules: Aircraft Turnaround Inspections and Aircraft Marshalling.

Air New Zealand Google Buds

Not all augmented reality applications have to be visual. Air New Zealand has trialed Google Buds paired with Pixel hand-held devices to help customer service agents interact with customers in more than 40 different languages.

As Air New Zealand chief digital officer Avi Golan explained, the airline already has many multilingual employees, but Google Buds help address staffing issues, ensuring that those who may not speak a particular language can still help customers.

Golan explained:

“We operate to 30 international destinations and our customers speak an even more diverse range of languages. Google Pixel Buds could assist in areas such as check-in and boarding as well as inflight to help our staff communicate effectively with international customers.”

Related reading from tnooz:

IATA outlines how tech is reshaping the future of the aviation job market (Aug 2018)


Hawaii Tourism and Lodging Awards Gala set for March

Tickets are on sale for the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Awards gala, which will be held March 1 on the Great Lawn at Hilton Hawaiian Village in Waikiki. 

The winners of the annual tourism industry awards will be announced, with 18 prizes given in six overall categories including accommodations, food and beverage, events, activities, leadership in the industry, and agritourism.

The Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Awards are sponsored by the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association and AIO Media Group, owner of Hawaii Magazine, to recognize the people, events and endeavors promoting and furthering visitation to the islands. 

The event runs from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. and includes a cocktail reception, dinner, entertainment and post-meal fireworks.


The irresistible allure of Instagram, and how the travel industry is using it

Harnessing the power of Instagram has become a quest in the travel industry, where pretty pictures are staple sales tools.

On a moody August morning in British Columbia, two humpback whales swam beside the floating Great Bear Lodge, exciting guests who watched them feeding and lunging out of the water for fish.

Posted to Instagram, the video of the exuberant wildlife encounter went viral and the lodge’s following grew from 600 to nearly 50,000. Booking inquiries jumped 1,350 per cent that week.

Such is the power of Instagram, the popular photo-driven social media platform, now with over 1 billion users.

Get the full story at Today


(At Least) 5 Reasons Why Albuquerque Is America’s Coolest City for Geek Travelers

Your information will *never* be shared or sold to a 3rd party. Promise.

New Mexico in general and the area around Albuquerque, in particular, have been a haven for geeky travelers long before Heisenberg ever “graduated” from high school chemistry to hardcore “cooking”. Needless to say, there are plenty of (legal) things to do in Albuquerque.

If you’re a nerd through-and-through — someone who appreciates a good nuclear museum or the physics behind hot air ballooning, ABQ (as it’s known to locals) should be at the top of your bucket list.

Here are just five reasons why …

In just a few short days, we found so many amazing, adventurous, and geeky things to do in Albuquerque. Here are five of our favorites (and a few honorable mentions) in New Mexico’s most popular destination city.

#1: Hot Air Ballooning

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

Of all the things to do in Albuquerque, you probably already know that it’s the officially unofficial world hub for all things hot air ballooning. For three very good reasons. Firstly, the annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is perhaps the world’s largest, most popular, and most fun hot air balloon launch party. Professional and amateur balloon pilots culminate from around the world to participate in this massive event. There are balloon rides, races, music, photo contests, food … it’s like Burning Man, but without all the hippies and insane desert heat.

Anderson Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum, Albuquerque © Mike Richard

Second, the Anderson Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum is ground zero for everything you’ve ever wanted to know (or didn’t even know you wanted to know) about ballooning. It tracks the history of the sport from centuries ago, right up through the manned, record-setting, trans-oceanic flights of today.

Hot Air Balloon Ride with Rainbow Ryders, Albuquerque
Hot Air Balloon Ride with Rainbow Ryders, Albuquerque © Mike Richard

Lastly, and most obviously, the area around ABQ offers some of the best conditions in the world for actually going ballooning. I highly recommend a ride with top pilot Troy Bradley of Rainbow Ryders. Bradley has flown more than 6,500 total hours, around the world in 45 states and 13 countries. He’s set nearly 60 world records and his stories will blow your mind, perhaps even more than the balloon ride itself!

#2: National Museum of Nuclear Science & History

Uranium Cycle Exhibit at Albuquerque's Nuclear Museum

Hardcore geeks — and honestly just about anyone — will find something of interest at Albuquerque’s National Museum of Nuclear Science & History. Of all the things to do in Albuquerque, this has to be the nerdiest. As “the nation’s only congressionally chartered museum in its field,” it’s home to some of the most fascinating nuclear-related exhibits in the world. Everything from nanotechnology to nuclear medicine to the process and disposal of nuclear materials is explored. The museum also offers a variety of historic exhibits that show the science and aftermath behind the dropping of the world’s only-ever atomic bombs in Japan.

Military Bomber at Albuquerque's Nuclear Museum
Bomber Plane Albuquerque's National Museum of Nuclear Science & History © Mike Richard

In addition, the museum’s large, outdoor Heritage Park is home to dozens of one-of-a-kind bits of aviation history, including decommissioned planes, rockets, missiles, and even a nuclear sub sail.

#3: Petroglyph National Monument

Petroglyph National Monument

Petroglyphs — historic designs and symbols carved into rock — are among the most valuable pieces of written human history in the world. Petroglyph National Monument is among the largest sites of its kind in North American with more than 24,000 glyphs. The meaning behind the vast majority of them is a mystery to historians and archeologists, but they provide substantial clues to the way Native Americans and Spanish settlers lived between 400 to 700 years ago. The park’s geological formation is also found almost nowhere else in the world, making it all the more unique. A variety of dedicated hiking trails around the park lead to sites where visitors can view hundreds of different glyphs.

#4: The Darkest of Dark Skies

Milky Way Galaxy
Ribbons and Stars of the Milky Way © Abdul Rahman

“Astrotourism” has grown exponentially in just the last five years. With little light pollution relative to similarly-sized cities, the area around Albuquerque offers excellent opportunities for dark sky parties. For amateur astronomers and photographers, it’s a stunning place to see the sky like our ancestors saw it. On a clear night, views of the Milky Way are quite literally breathtaking!

#5: Everything Breaking Bad

Heisenberg Parking Only Sign, Albuquerque
Heisenberg Parking Only Sign, Albuquerque © Mike Richard

I don’t really need to point this out, right? Albuquerque is home to everything Breaking Bad and, if you’re a hyper-obsessed fan of the show like me, it’s almost overwhelming just how many BB-related points of interest you can find throughout the city. Visitors can get their photo taken in front of the house where Jesse’s girlfriend overdosed, Walt and Skyler’s house (which is sadly, but routinely, peppered with whole pizzas on the roof), and, of course, The Candy Lady for a “Blue Ice” demonstration that reveals how the show’s prop meth was really cooked.

Honorable Mentions (or “Other Fun Things to Do in Albuquerque”)


Spaceport, New Mexico
© Spaceport America

Spaceport — home to Virgin Galactic’s WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo and the modern day private space race — isn’t technically open for public tours. But, the fact that the company’s home base is in New Mexico speaks volumes about the state’s long-standing dedication to hardcore science.

American International Rattlesnake Museum

© Mike Johnston

Albuquerque’s Rattlesnake Museum is a museum. Full of just rattlesnakes. How rad is that? Its goal is to explore how rattlesnakes, in particular, and other “less desirable” animals in general influence our lives. I don’t know for sure, but I’m going to assume that this is the only museum of its kind in the world.

Apothecary Lounge at Hotel Parq Central

Rooftop Terrace at Albuquerque's Apothecary Lounge

Mixology and cocktail culture have exploded in recent years. Not surprisingly, one bar in Albuquerque puts a chemistry-centric spin on their affection for artisan tipple. Bartenders at the downtown Hotel Parq Central’s Apothecary Lounge could teach a masterclass in cocktail chemistry and they’re happy to share the knowledge and flare with hotel guests. As an added bonus, the bar’s rooftop terrace offers some of the best views in the city.

What are your favorite things to do in Albuquerque? Let us know in the comments!

Disclosure: Vagabondish received a complimentary trip to Albuquerque in advance of this post. Read our view on sponsored content.


Latest for ACT: The Power of Culture in the Fight for Taiwan

Where cultures mingle...

American Citizens for Taiwan has published my latest piece for them....

Taiwanese food products have done much to raise awareness of Taiwan, as chefs in North America and Europe are learning how to make “Taiwanese pork belly sliders” (gua bao) while Taiwanese pearl milk tea is a hit in many countries. Government cultural agencies in Taiwan have put great effort into promoting Taiwan as a food destination. But because of disagreements between the pro-Taiwan and the pro-China side in Taiwan’s politics over what “Taiwan” means, and from the lack of domestic markets and infrastructure to support them, cultural products such as film and music remain unexplored realms of soft power.
This was stimulated by a conversation on Twitter that took off from the success of Crazy Rich Asians and asked what could be done for Taiwan...
[Taiwan] Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!


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Skyview Priority Pass Manila Ninoy Aquino MNL Airport Review (while under construction).

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Flying out of Manila on Delta you have two lounge choices post security. If you are a business class passenger you can visit the Skyteam lounge (no love for elites anymore – sorry). Otherwise you need to have something like Priority Pass from any number of high end travel cards to get into either of the lounges down the hall from each other.

While the club is listed as open 24 hours daily the Priority Pass site does suggest you are limited to a 3 hour visit (not that you would want to stay here more than 3 hours anyway).

As a disclaimer for this review the lounge was under construction and from what I can see the space was once a large lounge, now being divided for separate PP access and ANA space below:

Next on to the the self service food and beverage choices that I did not sample during my visit.

Once finished the one perk of this club vs the other Skyteam lounge is the additional food options. Perhaps, if you are hungry, visit this lounge then make your way down the hall for a longer layover to the Skyteam lounge (that also has a shower if you need one).

Have you visited the Skyview Lounge in Manila? – René



Etihad Airways extends content, merchandising and analytics agreements with Travelport

Travelport has today announced the signing of a new multi-year content agreement with Etihad Airways. The agreement includes continued use of Travelport Rich Content and Branding and Travelport Sponsored Flights, as well as its business intelligence solutions for airlines, Travelport Business Intelligence, plus the renewal of the contract with Travelport Digital.

Etihad, which is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year, uses Travelport Rich Content and Branding with Travelport’s 68,000-connected agencies when searching for and booking its branded fares, as well as greater access to its ancillary offers. The Travelport Sponsored Flights digital media offering is then used by the airline to further promote its flight options.

“An important competitive edge”

Dieter Westermann, Etihad Airways VP revenue management, said: “Travelport’s edge in technological innovation, mobile engagement platforms, merchandising and intelligence helps us ensure we have the right content, promoted to the right audiences, at the right time, in the right way.

“This provides us with an important competitive edge, which we value greatly – especially in today’s highly competitive environment.”

“Technology leadership, intelligence, and merchandising”

Philip Saunders, VP air commerce, Europe, Middle East and Africa at Travelport, commented: “Travelport is proud to continue its long-standing relationship with Etihad. Today’s announcement is another significant endorsement from the Middle East airline industry for the value our technology leadership, intelligence, and merchandising capabilities provide.

“We look forward to continuing our powerful collaboration for many more years to come.”


Swedish Phone Booth in Lindsborg, Kansas

Want to make a phone call from Sweden? Instead of traveling to Stockholm, you can pretend to call from the Swedish phone booth in Lindsborg, Kansas.

The unique phone booth is named Tala Dala, after the traditional carved, wooden Swedish horses. It’s painted in the traditional Swedish colors of ljust mellanblå and guldgult—that’s light blue and golden yellow for those of you who aren’t familiar with Swedish.

The exterior and interior of Tala Dala were painted in rosemaling by Carla Wilson, an extremely talented artist in town. The phone booth is located in downtown Lindsborg, and is quite possibly the most popular location for snapping a selfie. 

The phone booth and Dala horses aren’t the only hints of Sweden you’ll find in this Kansas town. Lindsborg—dubbed “Little Sweden”—was founded by Swedish immigrants in the 1870s. Swedish traditions continue throughout the year with the annual Messiah Festival for the Arts, Midsummers, St. Lucia Festival and the ever-popular monthly Makers Street. You’ll often see the Lindsborg Swedish Folk Dancers perform. Be sure to stroll up and down Main Street to photograph the Dala horse herd.


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