International tourist arrivals have exceeded one billion for the first time, a UN body says.
The number of international tourist arrivals grew by four per cent to 1.035 billion in 2012, up from 996 million in 2011, the Madrid-based United Nations World Tourism Organisation (WTO) said in an annual survey.
Despite economic instability, international tourism "managed to maintain its course", the UN body's Secretary General Taleb Rifai told reporters on Tuesday.
The organisation predicts international tourist numbers will grow in 2013 although at a slightly lower rate of 3-4 per cent.
Global tourism figures were hit hard by the 2008 global financial crisis, with the rise in international arrivals that year slowing to 2.1 per cent after jumping 6.6 per cent in the previous year.
Arrivals plunged by 3.9 per cent in 2009, in the worst performance in 60 years, as the outbreak of the swine flu virus also deterred travellers.
But international tourism arrivals bounced back, rising 6.6 per cent in 2010 and by five per cent in 2011 even though global economic crisis hadn't ended.
The Asia-Pacific region posted the largest growth in visitors in 2012, with the number of foreign tourists up by 14 million or 6.5 per cent to 233 million.
Growth was highest in South-East Asia, up by 8.7 per cent over 2011.
Tourist numbers climbed 4.1 per cent in emerging economies compared with a 3.6 per cent rise in advanced economies.
The only region to report a decline was the Middle East with 2 per cent fewer arrivals because of political instability in popular tourist spots such as Egypt and Syria.
Asia and Africa are expected to post the greatest growth in tourist numbers in 2013.
The agency predicts tourist arrivals will increase by 5-6 per cent in the Asia-Pacific region this year and 2-3 per cent in Europe.
The tourism forecast comes a week after the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicted the global economy will grow slightly less in 2013 than expected.
The UN World Tourism Organisation predicts international tourist arrivals will rise by an average of 3.8 per cent each year between 2010 and 2020 and will reach 1.8 billion in 2030.