Kathmandu, July 19:

Spending by tourists abroad now averages more than $2 billion a day worldwide, according to a new report published by the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO). An estimated $682 billion was spent abroad by tourists in 2005, up $49 billion or 3.4 per cent up against the previous year. If spending on foreign passenger transport of $130 billion is added, the total export spend is more than $800 billion.

This represents some six per cent of the global exports of all goods and services during the year. “Visitor spending continues its strong overall growth,” says the report quoting UNWTO secretary general Francesco Frangialli, “Contributing substantially to global services exports and particularly to the overall trade balances of developing economies. Africa’s 7.8 per cent increase is a significant success story.”

In absolute terms all regions shared in the increase on visitor spending. According to the report, Europe cornered the largest share of 51 per cent of the total $347 billion, up by $19 billion against the previous year. The Americas share has gone up by 21 per cent or $13 billion or $145 billion, while Asia and the Pacific followed it and earned $139 billion, up by $11 billion compared to 2004. Despite the Middle East has only four per cent share in total tourism earnings, the region accumulated $29 billion, up by $3 billion during the period.

In growth terms the order reverses, as Africa’s earnings went up by $2 billion to $21 billion, which is 7.8 per cent growth against the previous year.

In comparison to receipts, international tourist arrivals grew by 5.6 per cent in 2005. Again Africa was the fastest growing region with a 10 per cent increase, followed by the Middle East at 9.5 per cent, Asia and the Pacific at 7.8 per cent, the Americas at 6.1 per cent and Europe four per cent.

The report attributes that somewhat slower pace of growth in receipts against arrivals to the fragile recovery of high-yield business tourism, a comparatively strong increase in short breaks- stimulated by low-cost airlines, and a shift towards destinations offering perceived value for money.

According to the report, tourism development in Africa has been quite successful in the past couple of years, with the number of international arrivals growing from 28.2 to 36.8 million between 2000 and 2005, in spite of concerns about terrorism and SARS and the economic downturn of 2001-2003.

In the same period, receipts even doubled from $10.5 billion to $21.3 billion, adds the report.