Tourism will return to pre-pandemic levels in some regions in 2023

After a stronger-than-expected recovery in 2022, international tourist arrivals could return to pre-pandemic levels in Europe and the Middle East this year. However, tourists are expected to increasingly seek value for money and travel closer to home in response to the challenging economic climate

(Source: UNWTO)

According to UNWTO forward-looking scenarios for 2023, international tourist arrivals could reach 80-95% of pre-pandemic levels this year, depending on the extent of the economic slowdown, the ongoing recovery in travel in Asia and the Pacific and the evolution of the Russian offensive in Ukraine, among other factors.

All regions recovering

According to new UNWTO data, more than 900 million tourists traveled internationally in 2022, double the number recorded in 2021, although still 63% of pre-pandemic levels. All regions of the world registered notable increases in the number of international tourists. The Middle East enjoyed the strongest relative increase, with arrivals rising to 83% of pre-pandemic numbers. Europe reached almost 80% of pre-pandemic levels, welcoming 585 million arrivals in 2022. Africa and the Americas recovered around 65% of their pre-pandemic visitors, while Asia and the Pacific reached just 23%, due to a stronger pandemic. related restrictions that have begun to be lifted only in the last few months.

Arrivals of International Tourists, World and Regions

UNWTO Secretary General Zurab Pololikashvili said: "A new year brings more reasons for optimism for world tourism. UNWTO anticipates a strong year for the sector, even in the face of various challenges, including the economic situation and the continued geopolitical uncertainty. Economic factors may influence how people travel in 2023 and UNWTO expects demand for domestic and regional travel to remain strong and help fuel a broader recovery in the sector."

Chinese tourists ready to return
UNWTO expects the recovery to continue throughout 2023, even as the sector faces economic, health and geopolitical challenges. The recent lifting of COVID-19 related travel restrictions in China, the world's largest source market in 2019, is a significant step for the recovery of the tourism sector in Asia-Pacific and globally. In the short term, the resumption of travel from China is likely to benefit Asian destinations in particular. However, this will be determined by the availability and cost of air travel, visa regulations, and COVID-19 related restrictions at destinations. As of mid-January, a total of 32 countries had imposed specific travel restrictions related to travel from China,

At the same time, strong demand from the United States, supported by a strong US dollar, will continue to benefit destinations in the region and beyond. Europe will continue to enjoy strong travel flows from the US, partly due to a weaker euro against the US dollar.

There have been notable increases in international tourism receipts in most destinations, in several cases higher than the growth in arrivals. This has been supported by the increase in average spending per trip due to longer periods of stay, the willingness of travelers to spend more at their destination, and higher travel costs due to inflation. However, the economic situation could mean that tourists adopt a more cautious attitude in 2023, with reduced spending, shorter trips and trips closer to home.  

In addition, the continued uncertainty caused by the Russian aggression against Ukraine and other growing geopolitical tensions, as well as the health challenges related to COVID-19, also pose downside risks and could affect the recovery of tourism in the coming months.

The latest UNWTO Confidence Index shows cautious optimism for January-April, higher than the same period in 2022. This optimism is supported by the opening up in Asia and strong 2022 spending figures from both tourism source markets Both traditional and emerging, with France, Germany and Italy, as well as Qatar, India and Saudi Arabia, posting strong results.

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