International tourism at the end of 2023 will reach nearly 90% of pre-pandemic levels

Overall, tourism recovered 87% of pre-pandemic levels in January-September 2023. This puts the sector on track to recover almost 90% by the end of the year

International tourism is on track to recover almost 90% of its pre-pandemic levels by the end of this year. According to the latest figures from the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), approximately 975 million tourists traveled internationally between January and September, an increase of 38% compared to the corresponding period in 2022.

WTTC data shows that the travel and tourism sector’s contribution to India’s economy is around Rs. 15.7 trillion last year, while the forecast for the next ten years is around Rs. 37 trillion. Meanwhile, the innate human desire to explore new places and seek adventure is fueling a significant resurgence in travel, boosted by the influence of social media trends like Reels and Stories.

WTTC and its partner Oxford Economics show that global travel is making a comeback, with all regions recovering faster than expected, with Asia and the Pacific leading the way.

Speaking at the opening of the Global Summit in Kigali, WTTC President and CEO Julia Simpson said: “Our latest data highlights the enduring appeal and resilience of our sector and it is recovering faster than expected.

“This trend underscores long-standing consumer appetite for travel, and despite the full potential of China’s recovery yet to be realized, the global sector’s performance has exceeded expectations.”

Global destinations welcomed 22% more international tourists in the third quarter of 2023 compared to the same period last year, reflecting the strong summer season in the Northern Hemisphere.

International tourist arrivals reached 91% of pre-pandemic levels in the third quarter, reaching 92% in July, the best month so far since the pandemic began.

Overall, tourism recovered 87% of pre-pandemic levels in January-September 2023. This puts the sector on track to recover almost 90% by the end of the year.

International tourism revenue could reach $1.4 trillion in 2023, about 93% of the $1.5 trillion earned by destinations in 2019.

The latest UNWTO figures show that international tourism has almost fully recovered from the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis, with many destinations reaching or even exceeding pre-pandemic arrivals and revenues.

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said: “The latest UNWTO figures show that international tourism has almost fully recovered from the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis, with many destinations reaching or even exceeding pre-pandemic arrivals and revenues. This is critical for destinations, businesses, and communities where the sector is a major lifeline.”

Middle East, Europe and Africa lead recovery: The Middle East continues to lead the recovery by region in relative terms, with arrivals 20% above pre-pandemic levels in the nine months to September 2023. It remains the only region to surpass 2019 levels. Visa facilitation measures, the development of new destinations, investment in new tourism-related projects and the organization of major events contribute to this remarkable performance.

Europe, the world’s largest destination region, received 550 million international tourists during the period, 56% of the world total. This represents 94% of pre-pandemic levels. The recovery was supported by strong intra-regional demand as well as strong demand from the United States.

Africa recovered 92% of pre-pandemic visitors in the nine-month period, and arrivals in the Americas reached 88% of 2019 numbers as the region benefited from strong US demand, particularly to Caribbean destinations.

Asia and the Pacific reached 62% of pre-pandemic levels during this period due to a slower reopening to international travel. However, results among subregions have been mixed, with South Asia recovering 95% of pre-pandemic levels but Northeast Asia only about 50%.

Strong tourism spending: Strong demand for outbound travel was reported by several major source markets, with many exceeding 2019 levels. Germany and the United States spent 13% and 11% more on outbound travel, respectively, than in the same nine month of 2019, while Italy spent 16% more through August.

The sustained recovery is also reflected in the performance of industrial indicators. Based on data from IATA (International Air Transport Association) and STR, the UNWTO Tourism Recovery Tracker describes a strong recovery in air passenger numbers and occupancy levels of tourist accommodation.

Against this backdrop, international tourism is on track to fully recover to pre-pandemic levels in 2024 despite economic challenges such as high inflation and weaker global output, as well as important geopolitical tensions and conflicts.

But sustainability is also a key issue. It also promotes travel and tourism to support and inspire governments, businesses and society to implement the Global Biodiversity Framework and help transform humanity’s relationship with the natural world.

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