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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.

New Data from UNWTO: What We’ve Learned

The second UNWTO World Tourism Barometer of the year shows that the sector’s swift recovery has continued into 2023. It shows that:

  • Overall, international arrivals reached 80% of pre-pandemic levels in the first quarter of 2023
  • An estimated 235 million tourists travelled internationally in the first three months, more than double the same period of 2022.
  • Tourism has continued to show its resilience. Revised data for 2022 shows over 960 million tourists travelling internationally last year, meaning two-thirds (66%) of pre-pandemic numbers were recovered.

Recovery by Region in Q1 2023:

  • The Middle East saw the strongest performance as the only region exceeding 2019 arrivals (+15%) and the first to recover pre-pandemic numbers in a full quarter.
  • Europe reached 90% of pre-pandemic levels, driven by strong intra-regional demand.
  • Africa reached 88% and the Americas about 85% of 2019 levels
  • Asia and the Pacific accelerated its recovery with  54% of pre-pandemic levels, but this upward trend is set to accelerate now that most destinations, particularly China, have re-opened.

In many places, we are close to or even above pre-pandemic levels of arrivals

The UNWTO data also analyses recovery by sub-region and by destination: 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.

What it Means:

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili says: “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.”

International tourism receipts grew back to hit the USD1 trillion mark in 2022, growing 50% in real terms compared to 2021, driven by the important rebound in international travel. International visitor spending reached 64% of pre-pandemic levels (-36% compared to 2019, measured in real terms). By regions, Europe enjoyed the best results in 2022 with nearly USD 550 billion in tourism receipts (EUR 520 billion), or 87% of pre-pandemic levels. Africa recovered 75% of its pre-pandemic receipts, the Middle East 70% and the Americas 68%. Due to prolonged border shutdowns, Asian destinations earned about 28%.

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