Madrid, Jan 29 (IANS) A record one billion tourists took international trips last year, says a report published Tuesday by the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO).
The figure showed a four-percent rise from that in 2011, Xinhua reported.
Around 1.03 billion tourists visited foreign countries, 39 million more than in 2011, the report said.
The strongest growth was seen in the Asia and Pacific region with a seven-percent rise in international tourism last year, taking the total number of arrivals to 233 million.
Despite the ongoing economic crisis, the region is expected to see higher-than-average growth in 2013 at 5-6 percent.
Europe was still the most-visited region in the world with 535 million arrivals, while North-East Asia and Central America each saw a six-percent growth in international tourism.
"Tourism is thus one of the pillars that should be supported by governments around the world as part of the solution to stimulating economic growth," UNWTO General Secretary Taleb Rifai was quoted as saying.
Tourists spent more while travelling last year.
Hong Kong was the best performer, seeing increase of receipts by 16 percent, followed by a 10-percent rise in the US and a six-percent rise in Britain, which was partly due to the 2012 London Olympics.
The importance of China as a source market was highlighted by a 42-percent rise in expenditure by Chinese tourists.
There was also a 31-percent rise in spending from Russians travelling abroad.
International tourism in the US and Canada both grew by seven percent, while the biggest losers turned out to be France and Italy where tourism dropped by seven and two percent respectively.