Tourism has become a global leisure activity. In 2014 international tourist arrivals rose by 4.7 per cent to 1.14 billion tourists globally. International tourism arrivals rose at the fastest rate in the Americas, where numbers grew by 7.0 to 181 million with Mexico posting double-digit growth of 19 per cent. The Asia-Pacific region saw the number of foreign overnight visitors rise by 5.0 per cent to 263 million. Europe remained the most visited region with 588 million arrivals with 4 per cent rise. And international tourism in the Middle East has shown signs of rebound with in most destinations. The region attracted 50 million international tourists, a 4 per cent rise over 2013.
International tourism receipts (the travel item of the balance of payments) grew to US$1.03 trillion in 2011, corresponding to an increase in real terms of 3.8% from 2010. Also in 2012, China became the largest spender in international tourism globally with US$102 billion, surpassing Germany and United States. China and emerging markets significantly increase their spending over the past decade, with Russia and Brazil as other two noteworthy examples.
There has been an up-trend in tourism over the last few decades, especially in Europe, where international travel for short breaks is common. The developments in technology and transport infrastructure, such as jumbo jets, low-cost airlines and more accessible airports have made many types of tourism more affordable. On April 28, 2009 The Guardian noted that “the WHO estimates that up to 500,000 people are on planes at any time.” There have also been changes in lifestyle, for example some retirement-age people sustain year round tourism. This is facilitated by internet sales of tourist services. Some sites have now started to offer dynamic packaging, in which an inclusive price is quoted for a tailor-made package requested by the customer upon impulse.
There have been a few setbacks in tourism, such as the September 11 attacks, the outbreak of the H1N1 influenza virus, and terrorist threats to tourist destinations, such as in Bali and several European cities. Also, on December 26, 2004, a tsunami, caused by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, hit the Asian countries on the Indian Ocean, including the Maldives. Thousands of lives were lost including many tourists. This, together with the vast clean-up operations, stopped or severely hampered tourism in the area for a time.