Travel and tourism continue to show resilience, on track for full recovery: UNWTO

Travel and tourism continue to show resilience, on track for full recovery: UNWTO

MADRID — The latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer shows that the travel and tourism sector’s quick recovery has continued into 2023.

Overall, international arrivals reached 80% of pre-pandemic levels in the first quarter of 2023, with an estimated 235 million tourists travelling internationally in the first three months of this year. That’s more than double the same period of 2022.

Not only that, but the UNWTO’s revised data for 2022 shows over 960 million tourists travelling internationally last year, meaning two-thirds (66%) of pre-pandemic numbers were recovered.

Region by region, in Q1 2023, the Americas reached 85% of 2019 (pre-pandemic) levels. Europe reached 90%, Africa 88% and Asia Pacific, 54%. The Asia Pacific region’s upward trend is set to accelerate now that most destinations, particularly China, have re-opened. Meanwhile the Middle East exceeded 2019 arrivals (+15%) and was the first to recover pre-pandemic numbers in a full quarter.

“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,” says UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili. “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 recovered too, reaching the US$1 trillion mark in 2022, and growing 50% in real terms compared to 2021. International travel was the big driver. Europe saw the best results in 2022 with nearly US$550 billion in tourism receipts (87% of pre-pandemic levels). Due to prolonged border shutdowns, Asian destinations earned about 28%. Africa recovered 75% of its pre-pandemic receipts, the Middle East 70% and the Americas 68%.


UNWTO’s forward-looking scenarios for 2023 project international arrivals to recover 80% to 95% of pre-pandemic levels.

Of course, there are challenges, including the economic situation, with high inflation and rising oil prices translating into higher transport and accommodation costs. The UNWTO says travellers are expected to increasingly seek value for money and travel closer to home.

Ever-present geopolitical tensions also continue to represent downside risks.

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