International tourism is on track to recover almost 90 per cent of pre-pandemic levels by the end of this year, according to the latest data from UNWTO.
The newest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer revealed that an estimated 975 million tourists travelled internationally between January and September 2023, an increase of 38 per cent on the same months of 2022.
The data showed world destinations welcomed 22 per cent more international tourists in 3Q2023 compared to the same period last year, reflecting a strong Northern Hemisphere summer season; international tourist arrivals hit 91 per cent of pre-pandemic levels in the third quarter, reaching 92 per cent in July; and overall, tourism recovered 87 per cent of pre-pandemic levels in January-September 2023.
That puts the sector on course to recover almost 90 per cent by the end of the year, and international tourism receipts could reach US$1.4 trillion in 2023, about 93 per cent of the US$1.5 trillion earned by destinations in 2019.
Leading the recovery are the Middle East, Europe and Africa. The Middle East saw arrivals 20 per cent above pre-pandemic levels in the nine months through September 2023, and remains the only world region to surpass 2019 levels this period. Visa facilitation measures, the development of new destinations, investments in new tourism-related projects and the hosting of large events, help underpin this recovery.
Europe welcomed 550 million international tourists over the period, 56 per cent of the global total. That represents 94 per cent of pre-pandemic levels. The rebound was supported by robust intra-regional demand as well as strong demand from the US.
Africa recovered 92 per cent of pre-pandemic visitors this nine-month period, and arrivals in the Americas reached 88 per cent of 2019 numbers this period.
Asia and the Pacific reached 62 per cent of pre-pandemic levels this period due to slower reopening to international travel. However, performance among sub-regions is mixed, with South Asia recovering 95 per cent of pre-pandemic levels but North-east Asia only about 50 per cent.
Strong demand for outbound travel was reported by several large source markets this period, with many exceeding 2019 levels. Germany and the US spent 13 per cent and 11 per cent more respectively on outbound travel than in the same nine months of 2019, while Italy spent 16 per cent more through August.
The sustained recovery is also reflected in the performance of industry indicators. Drawing on data from IATA and STR, the UNWTO Tourism Recovery Tracker details a strong recovery in air passenger numbers and tourist accommodation occupancy levels.
Against this backdrop, international tourism is well on track to fully recover pre-pandemic levels in 2024 despite economic challenges such as high inflation and weaker global output, as well as important geopolitical tensions and conflicts.
UNWTO secretary-general Zurab Pololikashvili shared: “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.”