International Tourism Swiftly Overcoming Pandemic Downturn

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International tourism has continued to recover from the worst crisis in its history as arrival numbers reached 84% of pre-pandemic levels between January and July 2023, according to the latest data from UNWTO. The Middle East, Europe and Africa lead the global sector’s rebound.

Tourism on Track for Full Recovery
Tourism demand continues to show remarkable resilience and sustained recovery, even in the face of economic and geopolitical challenges. The new issue of the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer tracks the sector’s recovery over the course of 2023 up to the end of July. The UNWTO Barometer shows:

By the end of July, international tourist arrivals reached 84% of pre-pandemic levels.
700 million tourists travelled internationally between January and July 2023, 43% more than in the same months of 2022.
July was the busiest month with 145 million international travellers recorded, about 20% of the seven-month total.

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said: “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.”

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili

Results by Region

All world regions enjoyed strong rates of tourism recovery over the first seven months of 2023, driven by demand for international travel from several large source markets:

The Middle East reported the best results in January-July 2023, with arrivals 20% above pre-pandemic levels. The region continues to be the only to exceed 2019 levels so far.

Europe, the world’s largest destination region, reached 91% of pre-pandemic levels, supported by robust intra-regional demand and travel from the United States.

Africa recovered 92% of pre-crisis visitors this seven-month period and the Americas 87% according to available data.

In Asia and the Pacific, recovery accelerated to 61% of pre-pandemic arrival levels after the opening of many destinations and source markets at the end of 2022 and earlier this year.

The UNWTO World Tourism Barometer contains results by region, sub-region and country, including best-performing destinations in terms of international arrivals and receipts over the first seven months of the year.

Looking ahead

These results show international tourism remains well on track to reach 80% to 95% of pre-pandemic levels in 2023. Prospects for September-December 2023 point to continued recovery, according to the latest UNWTO Confidence Index, though at a more moderate pace following the peak travel season of June-August. These results will be driven by the still pent-up demand and increased air connectivity particularly in Asia and the Pacific where recovery is still subdued.

The reopening of China and other Asian markets and destinations is expected to continue boosting travel both within the region and to other parts of the world.

The challenging economic environment continues to be a critical factor in the effective recovery of international tourism in 2023, according to UNWTO’s Panel of Experts.

Persisting inflation and rising oil prices have translated into higher transport and accommodations costs. This could weigh on spending patterns over the remainder of the year, with tourists increasingly seeking value for money, travelling closer to home and making shorter trips.

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