A predicted 1 billion international tourists in 2012 illustrates global mobility

The UN suggests international tourism will hit a new high in 2012:

The U.N.’s World Trade Organization says 1 billion people will cross international borders as tourists this year for the first time…

That figure would be about 4 percent higher than last year’s total. Back in 1950, the figure was 25 million. The UN counts only people who stay at least one night. It does not include cruise ship passengers.

“It is quite iconic when you realize 1 billion people crossed borders,” Vogeler said at a Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association conference in Puerto Rico. “It shows from a sociological point of view how things have changed. If you go back 20-30 years, many people would die without traveling more than 100 miles from home.”…

The organization also projects that there will be 1.4 billion in 2020 and 1.8 billion in 2030.

Some of the sociological factors behind this:

1. More people with income that allows them to travel internationally. Such travel is not cheap but with rising incomes and a growing middle class in developing nations, there are more people who can travel. In other words, more people can afford to travel.

2. A growing cultural emphasis on the value of tourism and seeing different parts of the world. Perhaps part of this is due to more widespread information about other parts of the world. Or perhaps it reflects an idea that a well-rounded person is an international traveler. Regardless of the specific reason, this would mean more people want to travel.

Of course, other factors like cheaper and quicker transportation matter as well as a growing interest many countries (and cities) have in growing their economies through tourism and “selling” their attractions to visitors.

On the whole, I imagine the United Nations would want to promote this quite a bit. More international travel suggests more money will be flowing across borders and more international understanding is possible.

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