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What world population blowout means to tourism

May 22, 2017 Headline News No Comments Email Email

Virtually unnoticed by the world’s media, the planet’s population has quietly crept past the 7.5 billion mark – a milestone that means there are now three times as many people on Earth as there were in 1950.

The growth is unprecedented. The world is now three-quarters of the way to 10 billion people and is adding each year about the same number of people who now live in Germany (where the population hit a record high of 82.8 million people last year as 600,000 migrants arrived in the country).

The latest United Nations projections indicate that world population will reach 10 billion in 2056 (six years earlier than previously estimated, largely because of faster-than-expected population growth in Africa).

Not only is the world’s population growing, society is rapidly urbanising and the march from countryside to cities is happening at a rate never seen before.

Growing middle classes in countries like India and China should ensure that demand for travel remains strong in coming decades. The future will see more city-dwellers seeking breaks in quieter, less populated areas to re-charge the spirit. People keen to unwind will seek wilderness and unspoiled landscapes. Australia abounds in such places.

At the same time, population can be expected to encroach on wilderness and nature reserves. See: Is this the end of the road for ‘Europe’s Yellowstone’?

The short-term value of forests for logging, or wilderness for mining, is most likely only a fraction of the potential value of the same areas for sustainable tourism. Preserving such wilderness areas, and protecting animal and bird reserves from poachers and encroaching human population, will be a challenge. Animals like elephants, lions and tigers, and many bird species, face severe threat.

The United Nations says: “Projections show that urbanisation combined with the overall growth of the world’s population could add another 2.5 billion people to urban populations by 2050, with close to 90% of the increase concentrated in Asia and Africa.”

The world’s urban population (as opposed to overall population) is expected to surpass six billion by 2045.

The urban population of the world has grown rapidly from 746 million in 1950 to 3.9 billion in 2014. Asia, despite its lower level of urbanisation, is home to 53% of the world’s urban population, followed by Europe with 14% and Latin America and the Caribbean with 13%.

Today, 54% of the world’s population lives in urban areas, a proportion that is expected to increase to 66% by 2050, according to UN projections.

To see the world’s population increase in real time, go to:

Surprising population facts:

  • There are roughly twice as many people in the world now as there were in 1970.
  • The current population of Africa is five times greater than it was in 1950 and Africa’s fast population growth is set to continue, with the continent’s population doubling from 1.2 billion to 2.4 billion between 2015 and 2050 and reaching 4.2 billion by 2100. Women in the Republic of the Niger, a landlocked country in West Africa, have the highest fertility rate in the world and an average of 6.6 children each.
  • The future of humanity is increasingly African. Unicef says that more than half the projected 2.2 billion rise in the world population in 2015-2050 is expected to take place in Africa. On current trends, within 35 years, one in every four people on Earth will be African (25%), rising to 40% by the end of the century. Back in 1950, only 9% of the world’s population was African.
  • Urbanisation is everywhere. In Botswana, about 65% of the population now lives in urban areas, yet back in 1950 only 2.7% of Botswanans lived in cities.
  • It took all of human history for world population to reach one billion (which happened around 1800); the second billion was achieved in only 130 years (1930), the third billion in less than 30 years (1959), the fourth billion in 15 years (1974), and the fifth billion in only 13 years (1987). The sixth and seventh billion have quickly followed.
  • During the 20th century alone, the population of the world grew from 1.65 billion to 6 billion.

Here are the top 10 countries by population:

  1. China 1.38 billion
  2. India 1.34 billion
  3. United States 326 million
  4. Indonesia 263 million
  5. Brazil 211 million
  6. Pakistan 196 million
  7. Nigeria 191 million
  8. Bangladesh 164 million
  9. Russia 143 million
  10. Mexico 130 million

Here are the top 20 countries listed by birth rate (average annual number of births during a year per 1000 persons, as compiled by the US Central Intelligence Agency.)

  1. Niger
  2. Mali
  3. Uganda
  4. Zambia
  5. Burundi
  6. Burkina Faso
  7. Malawi
  8. Somalia
  9. Angola
  10. Mozambique
  11. Afghanistan
  12. Nigeria
  13. Ethiopia
  14. Sierra Leone
  15. South Sudan
  16. Chad
  17. Tanzania
  18. Cameroon
  19. Benin
  20. Guinea


Written by Peter Needham



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