Flights to international airports for business, leisure and other purposes performed better in 2009 than many had expected, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO).
Global international visitor numbers declined by four percent last year to stand at 880 million, however this represented a slight improvement on the previous forecasts made by the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer.
The improved performance was due primarily to a two percent improvement in the number of international visitors during the fourth quarter, with Asia and the Middle East witnessing the biggest increases.
Taleb Rifai, secretary general for the UNWTO, said: "The global economic crisis aggravated by the uncertainty around the H1N1 (swine flu) pandemic turned 2009 into one of the toughest years for the tourism sector.
"However, the results of recent months suggest that recovery is underway, and even somewhat earlier and at a stronger pace than initially expected."
According to statistics from the organisation, there were 922 million international tourist arrivals in 2008.