Global tourism reaches 80% of pre-pandemic levels in 2023: UNWTO, ET TravelWorld

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International tourism is well on its way to returning to pre-pandemic levels, with twice as many people travelling during the first quarter of 2023 than in the same period of 2022.

The second UNWTO World Tourism Barometer of the year shows that the sector’s swift recovery has continued this year, showing that overall, international arrivals reached 80 percent of pre-pandemic levels in the first quarter of 2023.

Tourism has continued to show its resilience, stated UNWTO revealing that an estimated 235 million tourists travelled internationally in the first three months, more than double the same period of 2022. Revised data for 2022 shows over 960 million tourists travelling internationally last year, meaning two-thirds (66 percent) of pre-pandemic numbers were recovered.

The Middle East saw the strongest performance as the only region exceeding 2019 arrivals (plus 15 percent) and the first to recover pre-pandemic numbers in a full quarter.

Europe reached 90 percent of pre-pandemic levels, driven by strong intra-regional demand. Africa reached 88 percent and the Americas about 85 percent of 2019 levels.

Comparatively lower than others, Asia and the Pacific accelerated its recovery with 54 percent of pre-pandemic levels, but this upward trend is set to accelerate now that most destinations, particularly China, have reopened.

Despite challenges, India’s inbound tourism set to grow at 12% CAGR: report

This growth will be driven by rising disposable incomes, growth of the middle class and increasing awareness of India as a tourist destination. The latest Knowledge report “Inbound Tourism in India – Unlocking the Potential” also suggested the need for the public and private sector to collaborate and use digital technologies as a key growth enabler.

The UNWTO data also analysed recovery by sub-region and by destination stating that Southern Mediterranean Europe and North Africa have also recovered pre-pandemic levels in Q1 2023, while Western Europe, Northern Europe, Central America and the Caribbean all came close to reaching those levels.”The start of the year has shown again tourism’s unique ability to bounce back. In many places, we are close to or even above pre-pandemic levels of arrivals. However, we must remain alert to challenges ranging from geopolitical insecurity, staffing shortages, and the potential impact of the cost-of-living crisis on tourism and we must ensure tourism’s return delivers on its responsibilities as a solution to the climate emergency and as a driver of inclusive development,” UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said.

The UNWTO World Tourism Barometer also stated that the international tourism receipts grew back to hit the USD one trillion mark in 2022, growing 50 percent in real terms compared to 2021, driven by the important rebound in international travel.

International visitor spending reached 64 percent of pre-pandemic levels (-36 percent compared to 2019, measured in real terms). By region, Europe enjoyed the best results in 2022 with nearly USD 550 billion in tourism receipts (EUR 520 billion), or 87 percent of pre-pandemic levels. Africa recovered 75 percent of its pre-pandemic receipts, the Middle East 70 percent and the Americas 68 percent.

Due to prolonged border shutdowns, Asian destinations earned about 28 percent.

Looking Ahead

The Q1 2023 results are in line with UNWTO’s forward-looking scenarios for the year which project international arrivals to recover 80 percent to 95 percent of pre-pandemic levels. UNWTO’s Panel of Experts expressed their confidence in a strong peak season (May-August) in the Northern Hemisphere, reflected in the latest UNWTO Confidence Index which indicates performance for the period is on track to be even better than 2022.

However, tourism’s recovery also faces some challenges. According to the UNWTO Panel of Experts, the economic situation remains the main factor weighing on the effective recovery of international tourism in 2023, with high inflation and rising oil prices translating into higher transport and accommodation costs.

As a result, tourists are expected to increasingly seek value for money and travel closer to home. Uncertainty derived from the Russian aggression against Ukraine and other mounting geopolitical tensions, also continue to represent downside risks, UNWTO stated.

  • Published On May 15, 2023 at 01:30 PM IST

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