International Tourism on Swift Path to Recovery from Pandemic
The global tourism sector is steadily rebounding from the unprecedented challenges posed by the pandemic, with international tourist arrivals reaching 84% of pre-pandemic levels between January and July 2023, according to recent data released by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). The regions of the Middle East, Europe, and Africa are at the forefront of this remarkable recovery.
Tourism Aims for a Full Comeback
Tourism has demonstrated remarkable resilience and continued recovery, even amidst economic and geopolitical uncertainties. The latest edition of the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, which monitors the sector’s progress throughout 2023 up to July, reveals the following key highlights:
- As of July, international tourist arrivals reached 84% of pre-pandemic levels.
- Between January and July 2023, a total of 700 million tourists embarked on international journeys, marking a 43% increase compared to the same period in 2022.
- July emerged as the busiest month, with 145 million international travelers recorded, accounting for approximately 20% of the total for the first seven months of the year.
Zurab Pololikashvili, Secretary-General of UNWTO, remarked, “UNWTO data once again shows how tourism is recovering strongly in every part of the world. But as our sector recovers, it also needs to adapt. The extreme weather events we have witnessed over recent months, as well as the critical challenges of managing increasing tourism flows, underline the need to build a more inclusive, sustainable, and resilient sector and ensure recovery goes hand-in-hand with rethinking our sector.”
Regional Recovery Trends
All global regions have witnessed robust tourism recovery during the initial seven months of 2023, propelled by increasing international travel demand from numerous significant source markets:
- The Middle East exhibited the most remarkable performance from January to July 2023, with arrivals surpassing pre-pandemic levels by 20%. The Middle East remains the only region to exceed 2019 levels to date.
- Europe, the world’s largest destination region, achieved 91% of pre-pandemic levels, driven by strong intra-regional demand and travel from the United States.
- Africa rebounded to 92% of pre-crisis visitor numbers in this seven-month period, while the Americas reached 87%, according to available data.
- In Asia and the Pacific, recovery accelerated to 61% of pre-pandemic arrival levels following the reopening of numerous destinations and source markets towards the end of 2022 and early 2023.
The UNWTO World Tourism Barometer offers comprehensive regional, sub-regional, and country-specific results, including the top-performing destinations in terms of international arrivals and receipts during the first seven months of the year.
These statistics indicate that international tourism is well on track to achieve between 80% and 95% of pre-pandemic levels in 2023. The prospects for September to December 2023 suggest that the recovery will continue, albeit at a more moderate pace following the peak travel season from June to August. This recovery will be driven by pent-up demand and increased air connectivity, particularly in Asia and the Pacific, where the recovery is still gaining momentum.
- The reopening of China and other Asian markets and destinations is anticipated to boost travel within the region and to other parts of the world.
- The challenging economic environment remains a crucial factor affecting the effective recovery of international tourism in 2023, as indicated by UNWTO’s Panel of Experts.
- Persistent inflation and rising oil prices have led to higher transportation and accommodation costs. This may influence spending patterns for the remainder of the year, with tourists seeking value for money, traveling closer to home, and opting for shorter trips.
These findings underscore the resilience of international tourism and its continued path to recovery, with prospects for the industry remaining positive despite ongoing challenges.