Global Tourism at 90% of Pre-Pandemic Levels by Year’s End
By the end of this year, international tourism is projected to rebound to nearly 90% of its pre-pandemic levels. The latest figures from the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) indicate that approximately 975 million tourists embarked on international trips between January and September 2023, marking a substantial 38% surge compared to the corresponding months in 2022.
The data from the World Tourism Barometer also shows:
World destinations welcomed 22% more international tourists in the third quarter of 2023 compared to the same period last year, reflecting a strong Northern Hemisphere summer season.
International tourist arrivals hit 91% of pre-pandemic levels in the third quarter, reaching 92% in July, the best month so far since the start of pandemic.
Overall, tourism recovered 87% of pre-pandemic levels in January-September 2023. That puts the sector on course to recover almost 90% by the end of the year.
International tourism receipts could reach USD 1.4 trillion in 2023, about 93% of the USD 1.5 trillion earned by destinations in 2019.
The Middle East, Europe and Africa lead recovery
In terms of regional recovery, the Middle East takes the lead, with a 20% increase in arrivals during the nine-month period ending in September 2023, surpassing pre-pandemic levels. Outperforming other regions globally, the Middle East stands alone in achieving higher visitation numbers compared to 2019. This outstanding performance is supported by measures to streamline visa processes, the creation of new tourist destinations, investments in tourism projects, and the hosting of major events.
Europe, the largest tourist destination in the world, saw 550 million international tourists during this time, accounting for 56% of the global total. This figure corresponds to 94% of pre-pandemic levels, thanks to a combination of strong intra-regional and US demand.
During this nine-month period, Africa experienced a 92% revival in tourist arrivals from before the pandemic, while the Americas saw a surge to 88% of the visitor numbers recorded in 2019. The Americas witnessed this growth primarily due to the high demand from the United States, especially for travel to Caribbean destinations.
This period, Asia and the Pacific achieved 62% of the levels seen before the pandemic, mainly because of a gradual reopening process for international travel. Nevertheless, the recovery rates vary across different sub-regions, as South Asia managed to reach 95% of the pre-pandemic levels, while North-East Asia only reached around 50%.
Tourism spending strong
During this period, numerous major source markets experienced a significant increase in the demand for outbound travel, surpassing the levels observed in 2019. Germany and the United States witnessed a respective rise of 13% and 11% in their expenditure on outbound travel compared to the same nine-month period in 2019. Similarly, Italy exhibited a 16% increase in spending on outbound travel up until August.
The robust rebound is also evident in the industry metrics. According to information sourced from IATA (the International Air Transport Association) and STR, Tourism Recovery Tracker illustrates a significant resurgence in both air passenger volumes and occupancy rates of tourist accommodations.
Despite economic challenges, including high inflation, weaker global output, and geopolitical tensions and conflicts, international tourism is expected to fully recover pre-pandemic levels by 2024.