by Jan Goller

The past year totalled 1.4 billion international tourist arrivals – a result which is two years ahead of forecasts. 2018 was with a six percent rise of tourists also the second strongest year since 2010. These are only some facts published in the new UNWTO World Tourism Barometer.

By the way, for this year UNWTO forecasts a three to four percent increase, in line with the historical growth trend. But which figures about the tourism can we expect this year? And how can digital solutions help hoteliers to be more effective and to increase sales?

Planet-Bpm talked with start-ups at the International Tourism Trade Fair (Fitur) in Madrid about their ideas to revolutionize the market.

International tourist arrivals up 6% in 2018

Now, the number even increased more fastly. In 2010 the UNWTO issued in their long term forecast that the indicated 1.4 billion mark of tourist arrivals would be reached in 2020. But the significant growth of international arrivals in recent years has brought it two years ahead. 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, says UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili.

This is why UNWTO is focussing 2019 on education, skills and job creation. 

What are the drivers of this extreme growth?

  • Favorable economic environment
  • Strong outbound demand from major source
  • Consolidation of the recovery in key destinations
    affected by previous crises
  • Enhanced connectivity
  • Increased visa facilitation


Less tourists came to the United Kingdom

  • The tourist arrivals in whole Europe reached 713 million in 2018, a notable 6% increase over an exceptionally strong 2017. This growth was driven by Southern and Mediterranean Europe (+7%), Central and Eastern Europe (+6%) and Western Europe (+6%). Only a few people visited Northern Europe due to the weakness of arrivals to the United Kingdom.
  • Asia and the Pacific (+6%) recorded 343 million international tourist arrivals in 2018.
  • The Americas (+3%) listed 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. Caribbean suffered of the impact of the hurricanes Irma and Maria in September 2017.
  • Africa points to a 7% increase in 2018 (North Africa at +10% and Sub-Saharan +6%) and reached about 67 million tourist arrivals.
  • The Middle East (+10%) showed respectable results last year consolidating its 2017 recovery, with international tourist arrivals reaching 64 million.

Innovative ideas to facilitate processes at Fitur

Fitur is the”leading trade fair for inbound and outbound Ibero American markets.”, as it describes its organisator IFEMA (the fair of Madrid). Compared with the last year’s edition the fair has grown 8.3% and counts with 886 stand-holder exhibitors and more than 10,487 companies from 165 countries and regions.

Being welcomed by a robot?

There are plenty of companies on the fairy with the same aim – to accelerate and facilitate the check-in/out process and the services during the stay of the clients. One of them is the start-up Tabhotel from Paris. “The clients can check in and out at one box where they also will receive their keys”, explains Guillaume Diac. The company consisting of ten workers has already installed this system in hotels in Switzerland, England and France. Untill now, only a few incidents happened and the software worked nearly without bugs. “And via our cloud we can fix problems easily from Paris”, asserts he. Instead of the box the clients can also be welcomed by a robot working with artificial intelligence. Although Diac insists on that their aim isn’t to replace humans working on the reception, there will be still the unanswered question about the losses of jobs.

B2booknet is a vacation rental platform based on B2B (Business to Business). The start-up was just run one month ago in Rome. It is open to travel professionals (buyers) and property suppliers (sellers). At the one hand travel agencies can book holiday flats worldwide directly from the sellers earning more money because of cheap commission fees. And on the other hand as a seller you can list the accommodation and set the commission for the travel agencies (buyers) on your own. The company was private financed at the beginning but now private investors are supporting them.

Avoid bad reviews during the stay

A clever solution for little hotels to manage their bookings has the start-up Roomraccoon which was founded by the German Nadja Buckenberger. She opened a hotel in Netherlands and struggled to find a software to manage her property. That’s why she and her friend created together a software to manage the property doing check in and out and all the reservations about different channels. Now they have about 40 customers in Portugal, Netherlands and Germany.

Nowadays having good reviews for hotels is essential and a key to be successful. TrustYou claims to the world’s largest guest feedback platform. The company was founded 2008 in Munich, Germany and offers an internal communication system between the guests and employees. The aim is to prevent bad reviews already during the stay. In addition, the hotels can manage and answer all the references on one platform.

Brexit can be a risk for travellers in 2019

Based on current trends, economic prospects and the UNWTO forecasts international arrivals will grow this year between 3 and 4% percent.

Making an outlook in 2019, we can see that stability of fuel prices will allow affordable air travel. Meanwhile the air connectivity continues to improve in many destinations. Trends also show strong outbound travel from emerging markets, especially India and Russia but also from smaller Asian and Arab source markets.

But at the same time, downside risks are the global economic slowdown and the uncertainty related to the Brexit. Moreover, geopolitical and trade tensions may prompt a “wait and see” attitude among investors and travellers.

Digitalisation, new business models, more affordable travel and societal changes are expected to continue shaping our sector. Therefore both destination and companies need to adapt if they want to remain competitive”, adds the UNWTO Secretary-General.