MADRID - South-east Asia continues to ride a tourism boom, latest figures from the United Nations' World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) show.
The region, which is maintaining the extraordinary momentum of recent years, saw almost 12 per cent growth in the number of visitors for the first half of the year, one of the best performing regions in the world.
Overall, the Asian-Pacific region reported growth of 6.2 per cent, with South Asia reporting an increase of 7 per cent.
Worldwide, UNWTO said that international tourist numbers had surged by 5.2 per cent to nearly half a billion people for the same period, beating earlier expectations.
"The fact that international tourism grew above expectations confirms that travelling is now part of consumer patterns for an increasing number of people in both emerging and advanced economies," said UNWTO secretary-general Taleb Rifai on Monday, Agence France-Presse reported.
"This underlines the need to rightly place tourism as one of the key pillars of socio-economic development, being a leading contributor to economic growth, exports and jobs."
Some 494 million international tourists spent at least one night abroad in the first six months of the year, the Madrid-based agency said in a report of preliminary results for the period, AFP reported.
As a result of the "robust" performance, the UNWTO said it was boosting its 2013 forecast.
After originally tipping growth of 3 to 4 per cent for the whole year, it now expects the increase to be at the higher end of that range "or to slightly exceed it".