Global tourist arrivals close in on 1 billion: U.N.




, Last Updated: 2:42 PM ET

International tourist arrivals grew 4% between January and August year-on-year and are heading for the 1 billion mark for the first time by December, the UN World Tourism Organization said.

Chinese spending on travel abroad grew significantly, it said.

Tourist numbers grew 5% in emerging economies compared with a 4% rise in advanced economies. UNWTO forecast overall growth of no more than 4% for the full year.

UNWTO numbers showed that the only region to report a decline in tourist numbers compared with the first eight months of 2011 was the Middle East with 1% fewer arrivals.

Countries reported their own data to the UNWTO regarding their earnings from and expenditure on international travel, varyingly covering a period between the first six and nine months of 2012.

With the data available to the UNWTO so far, spending on travel abroad rose 30% in China, followed by 22% in Poland, 15% in Russia, 16% in Argentina, 18% in Malaysia and 11% in India.

The United States, Canada, Germany and Australia reported single-digit growth in travel expenditure.

Italy and France showed a decline in spending on travel abroad, according to the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer which aims at monitoring the short-term evolution of tourism.

Earnings from tourism grew 48% in Japan, 26% in Sweden, South Korea and South Africa and 17% in Hong Kong.

In 2011, total earnings from international tourism receipts reached $1.2 trillion or 6% of the world's exports, according to the UNWTO.