China reaches 1.4 billion inhabitants; worldwide international tourist arrivals reach 1.5 billion

Further growth is, however, likely to be slowing down

by Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Georg Arlt FRGS FRAS

Dear Readers,

According to the data just published by UNWTO, the total amount of international trips grew by 4% from more than 1.4 billion to close to 1.5 billion overnight trips. The press release of UNWTO keeps an upbeat attitude, but one cannot deny the fact that after 7.2% in 2017 and 5.6% in 2018, a Year-on-Year growth of about 55 million trips with a growth rate of 3.8% represents a significant deceleration of global tourism industry. The percentage in 2019 is also less than the average growth rate over the period of 2009 – 2019, which stands at 5.1%. In advance, the International tourism economy has been growing much faster than global GDP, however, in 2019, a 3.8% growth rate of global tourism economy is just slightly above the 3.5% growth rate (inflation-adjusted) of global GDP.

As per the assumption of UNWTO, there is an increase of 3-4% in 2020 again, occurring another 50 million trips.

The UNWTO Confidence Index, based on the evaluation and forecast of tourism experts, of which your humble editor is proud to be one, accordingly shows that in 2019 the expectations were higher than the evaluation of the actual results. For 2020, the index is a bit more optimistic again but less than in the past decades.

China can tell a similar story. According to Chinese statistics, a hurdle for 1.4 billion inhabitants was cleared in 2019; the highest record ever reached the number of Mainland Chinese. Nonetheless, China’s birth rate has fallen since last year to its lowest since the formation of the People’s Republic of China 70 years ago, a result of the 36 years of the one-child policy, which has caused a reduction in the number of women of childbearing age. The birth rate was 10.48 per 1,000 in 2019, with the actual number of babies born in 2019 decreasing to 14.65 million, more than half a million babies fewer than in 2018. By the end of the new decade, the population number is expected to reach a peak of 1.44 billion and to decline from the third decade.

Concerning outbound travel, there are still enough Chinese and hundreds of millions are waiting for their first trip outside of China. However, with the “demographic dividend” no longer assisting the economic growth, one more problem is added to increase difficulties in keeping China’s economy growing. Last year, Ning Jizhe, the head of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) insisted that the demographic dividend and the economic potential resulting from a shift in a population’s age structure in terms of working and non-working population still exist and that demographic data should be analyzed in a long-term perspective, and demographic structures change with the development of economy and society and are a natural process. Ning pointed to the fact that China has a workforce pool with about 900 million people, out of which only over 700 million are in employment, posing a certain room to rise higher labor force participation rates. This alone is yet sufficient to lessen the economic burden on the fast-growing number of elders. By 2050, it is expected that for 100 people aged 20-64 and there will be 45 people aged over 65, compared with about 15 today.

Climate Change, Coronavirus, Hong Kong protesters, aging population – many issues are waiting for being solved by the Chinese Government after the Lunar New Year Spring Festival. Moreover, a lot of work is waiting for the tourism industry around the globe to beat the predictions of UNWTO – hopefully with the help of Chinese outbound tourists.

With all best wishes for our readers for a peaceful and profitable week,

Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Georg Arlt and the COTRI WEEKLY team