International tourism has continued on its steady growth trajectory, in a race to level up to pre-pandemic era, as 700 million tourists travelled globally between January and July this year, with Africa, Europe and the Middle East, leading the global sector’s rebound. This figure is 84% of pre-pandemic, according to the latest data from the United Nations World Tourism Organsiation (UNWTO) World Tourism Barometer. The figure is said to be 43% higher than the figure recorded for the same period last year.
July was said to the busiest month, with 145 million international travellers recorded, about 20% of the seven-month total. Appraising the performance, UNWTO Secretary-General, Zurab Pololikashvili, said: “UNWTO data once again shows how tourism is recovering strongly in every part of the world. But as our sector recovers, it also needs to adapt.
The extreme weather events we have witnessed over recent months as well as the critical challenges of managing increasing tourism flows underline the need to build a more inclusive, sustainable and resilient sector and ensure recovery goes hand-in-hand with rethinking of our sector.”
Details of the report shows that all the world regions enjoyed strong rates of tourism recovery over the first seven months of 2023, driven by demand for international travel from several large source markets:
The Middle East reported the best results, with arrivals 20% above pre-pandemic levels. The region continues to be the only one to exceed 2019 levels so far; Europe, the world’s largest destination region, reached 91% of pre-pandemic levels, supported by robust intra-regional demand and travel from the United States; Africa recovered 92% of pre-crisis visitors while the Americas recorded 87%; and Asia and the Pacific, recovery accelerated to 61%, after the opening of many destinations and source markets at the end of 2022 and earlier this year.
These results show international tourism remains well on track to reach 80% to 95% of pre-pandemic levels in 2023. Prospects for September-December 2023 point to continued recovery, according to the latest UNWTO Confidence Index, though at a more moderate pace following the peak travel season of June-August. These results will be driven by the still pent-up demand and increased air connectivity particularly in Asia and the Pacific where recovery is still subdued.
The reopening of China and other Asian markets and destinations is expected to continue boosting travel both within the region and to other parts of the world. The challenging economic environment continues to be a critical factor in the effective recovery of international tourism in 2023, according to UNWTO’s Panel of Experts.
Persisting inflation and rising oil prices have translated into higher transport and accommodations costs. This could weigh on spending patterns over the remainder of the year, with tourists increasingly seeking value for money, travelling closer to home and making shorter trips.