(CNN) - Last year was a very good year for international tourism, according to a new report from the United Nations World Tourism Organization.
In 2018, there were 1.4 billion international tourist arrivals, a figure the UNWTO didn't expect global tourism to hit until 2020.
"The growth of tourism in recent years confirms that the sector is today one of the most powerful drivers of economic growth and development," said UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili, in a statement.
A long-term forecast from the UNWTO in 2010 predicted 1.4 billion international arrivals by 2020. Reaching it two years ahead of forecast is due in part to stronger economic growth, greater visa facilitation and more affordable air travel, the report says.
Tourism to the Middle East and Africa grew above the 6% world average, year over year, with a 10% increase in the Middle East and a 7% jump in Africa. Asia and the Pacific and Europe both grew by 6%.
The Americas saw growth below the world average, with a 3% increase. In the Americas, international arrivals in Central America and the Caribbean both dropped by 2%. The Caribbean was hard-hit by impacts from the September 2017 hurricanes Irma and Maria.
The UNWTO forecast for international tourism in 2019 is expected to be more in line with historical growth trends of 3-4%.
Brexit uncertainty, an economic slowdown and geopolitical and trade tensions may mean more of a "wait and see" approach to travel in 2019, the report projects. However, stable fuel prices, improved air connectivity and strong outbound travel from emerging markets are all considered positive indicators for 2019.
The World Tourism Organization is the UN agency promoting sustainable, responsible and universally accessible tourism.
International tourist arrivals 2018
Total: 1.4 billion. +6%
Middle East: 64 million. +10%
Africa: 67 million. +7%
Asia and the Pacific: 343 million. +6%
Europe: 713 million. +6%
Americas: 217 million. +3%
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