The global tourism industry is making significant strides towards recovery after enduring its most devastating crisis in history. Between January and July 2023, international tourism arrivals surged to 84 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, according to the latest data from the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). This showcased the sector’s resilience and sustained rebound, even in the face of economic and geopolitical challenges.
During this seven-month period, a total of 700 million tourists embarked on international trips, marking a 43 per cent increase compared to the same period in 2022. July emerged as the busiest month, with a record-breaking 145 million international travellers, constituting roughly 20 per cent of the total for the entire seven-month period.
The recovery trend extended across all world regions, driven by robust demand from various large source markets. The UNWTO data revealed that the Middle East reported the most impressive results, with international arrivals surpassing pre-pandemic levels by 20 per cent, making it the only region to exceed 2019 figures thus far. Europe, as the world’s largest destination region, reached 91 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, thanks to strong intra-regional demand and travellers from the United States.
Africa achieved a recovery rate of 92 per cent, closely followed by the Americas at 87 per cent, according to available data. In Asia and the Pacific, recovery accelerated to 61 per cent of pre-pandemic levels after the reopening of numerous destinations and source markets at the end of 2022 and earlier in 2023.
Looking ahead, the data indicates that international tourism is well-positioned to reach between 80 per cent and 95 per cent of pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2023. Prospects for September through December 2023 suggest ongoing recovery, albeit at a more moderate pace following the peak travel season of June through August. This continued progress will be driven by pent-up demand and improved air connectivity, especially in Asia and the Pacific, where recovery has been slower.
The reopening of markets in China and other Asian destinations is expected to further boost travel both within the region and to other parts of the world. “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 of our sector,” noted Zurab Pololikashvili, the Secretary-General of UNWTO.
Amidst the growth prospects ahead, the challenging economic environment remains a critical factor in the effective recovery of international tourism in 2023, according to UNWTO’s Panel of Experts.
Persistent inflation and rising oil prices have led to higher transport and accommodation costs, potentially affecting spending patterns for the remainder of the year. Consequently, tourists are increasingly seeking value for money, opting for closer-to-home destinations and shorter trips, UNWTO World Tourism Barometer revealed.