Two tourists sitting looking at a map in Rome, Italy. LEHTIKUVA

International news

International tourism is poised to regain nearly 90% of its pre-pandemic strength by the end of 2023, as per the latest insights from the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). The UNWTO's data reveals that approximately 975 million tourists ventured abroad between January and September 2023, marking a 38% increase compared to the same period in 2022.

Key findings from the recent UNWTO World Tourism Barometer include:

  • There was a 22% increase in international tourists during the third quarter of 2023 compared to last year, buoyed by a robust summer season in the Northern Hemisphere.
  • International tourist arrivals reached 91% of pre-pandemic levels in this quarter, with July 2023 witnessing a peak at 92% - the highest since the pandemic's onset.
  • The overall recovery for January-September 2023 stood at 87%, setting the industry on track for almost a 90% recovery by year's end.
  • International tourism receipts are projected to hit around USD 1.4 trillion in 2023, which is close to 93% of the USD 1.5 trillion earned in 2019.

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili comments, "International tourism's near-complete recovery from the COVID-19 crisis is pivotal for destinations, businesses, and communities reliant on the sector. Several destinations are now reaching or surpassing pre-pandemic levels in terms of arrivals and revenue."

Regional Insights:

  • The Middle East leads the recovery, with arrivals 20% higher than pre-pandemic levels through September 2023. Visa facilitation, new tourism projects, and hosting large events contribute to this remarkable performance.
  • Europe, the largest tourist destination globally, attracted 550 million international tourists (56% of the global total), reaching 94% of pre-pandemic levels. This recovery is supported by strong intra-regional and US demand.
  • Africa regained 92% of its pre-pandemic visitor numbers, while the Americas reached 88% of 2019 figures, driven mainly by robust US demand, particularly towards Caribbean destinations.
  • Asia and the Pacific saw a 62% recovery, with varied performances across subregions. South Asia regained 95% of its pre-pandemic levels, whereas North-East Asia achieved about half.

The Barometer provides detailed data on regions, sub-regions, and individual destinations, reflecting strong outbound travel demand from major markets. Germany and the United States reported outbound travel spending surpassing 2019 levels by 13% and 11%, respectively, with Italy also showing a 16% increase.

The sustained recovery is mirrored in the performance of industry indicators, with significant growth in air passenger numbers and tourist accommodation occupancy levels, according to data from IATA and the UNWTO Tourism Recovery Tracker.

Despite economic headwinds like high inflation and geopolitical tensions, international tourism is on a steady path to reach or exceed pre-pandemic levels in 2024, signaling a robust comeback for one of the world's most vital industries.