In the realm of international tourism, the latest insights from the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) signaled a significant rebound toward pre-pandemic levels. The data revealed that international tourism is steadily regaining its momentum, projecting to reach nearly 90 per cent of the pre-pandemic benchmarks by the conclusion of 2023.
Between January and September 2023, approximately 975 million tourists embarked on international travel, marking a substantial 38 per cent increase compared to the corresponding months in 2022. This surge in tourism figures suggests a robust resurgence in global travel, reflecting a heightened eagerness among travelers to explore the world once more.
The UNWTO’s World Tourism Barometer divulged further encouraging statistics, indicating a 22 per cent increase in international tourist arrivals during the third quarter of 2023 compared to the same period in the preceding year. This upswing was particularly pronounced during the Northern Hemisphere’s summer season, evidencing a strong resurgence in travel demand.
Notably, the third quarter of 2023 witnessed international tourist arrivals scaling up to 91 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, with July emerging as the standout month, hitting a commendable 92 per cent recovery rate—the most robust performance since the onset of the pandemic. Overall, the tourism sector surged to 87 per cent of pre-pandemic levels during the period spanning January to September 2023, paving the way for an anticipated 90 per cent recovery by year-end.
Financially, international tourism receipts are expected to soar to approximately USD 1.4 trillion in 2023, representing a remarkable 93 per cent of the USD 1.5 trillion amassed by destinations in 2019, before the pandemic’s disruptive onset.
“The latest UNWTO data shows that international tourism has almost completely recovered from the unprecedented crisis of COVID-19 with many destinations reaching or even exceeding pre-pandemic arrivals and receipts. This is critical for destinations, businesses, and communities where the sector is a major lifeline,” said UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili.
The recovery isn’t uniform across regions, with varying rates of progress. The Middle East stands out as a frontrunner in relative recovery, surpassing pre-pandemic levels by 20 per cent through September 2023, holding the distinction as the sole world region to exceed 2019 figures in this period. Factors such as visa facilitation measures, novel destination development, investments in tourism-related projects, and the hosting of large events contributed significantly to this exceptional performance.
Europe, accounting for 56 per cent of the global total with 550 million international tourists, surged to 94 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, bolstered by robust intra-regional demand and substantial interest from the United States.
Africa and the Americas made substantial strides as well, with Africa recovering 92 per cent and the Americas reaching 88 per cent of 2019 visitor numbers during the nine-month period. Strong demand from the United States significantly contributed to the Americas’ positive trajectory, particularly benefiting Caribbean destinations.
In contrast, Asia and the Pacific lagged behind, reaching only 62 per cent of pre-pandemic levels during this period due to a slower reopening to international travel. Notably, South Asia displayed a remarkable recovery of 95 per cent, while North-East Asia trailed at approximately 50 per cent, illustrating mixed performances among subregions.
Moreover, the UNWTO’s Tourism Recovery Tracker, drawing data from IATA and STR, reported robust indicators in air passenger numbers and tourist accommodation occupancy levels, further underscoring the sector’s steadfast resurgence.
Looking ahead, despite economic challenges like high inflation, weaker global output, and geopolitical tensions, international tourism remains on a trajectory towards a full recovery to pre-pandemic levels by 2024, propelled by the sustained momentum and fervor evident in the industry’s recent performance.