According to the latest data from the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), a specialized agency of the United Nations which promotes responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism and is headquartered in Madrid, Spain, international tourism has continued to recover from the worst crisis in its history as arrival numbers reached 84% of pre-pandemic levels between January and July 2023.
Tourism demand continues to show remarkable resilience and sustained recovery, even in the face of economic and geopolitical challenges, with the Middle East, Europe and Africa leading the global sector’s rebound, says the international tourism body.
- By the end of July, international tourist arrivals reached 84% of pre-pandemic levels.
- 700 million tourists traveled internationally between January and July 2023, 43% more than in the same months of 2022.
- July was the busiest month with 145 million international travelers recorded, about 20% of the seven-month total.
But as the industry recovers, it also needs to adapt. The extreme weather events 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 the sector, UNWTO warns.
Results by Region
All 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 in January-July 2023, with arrivals 20% above pre-pandemic levels. The region continues to be the only 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 this seven-month period and the Americas 87% according to available data.
- In Asia and the Pacific, recovery accelerated to 61% of pre-pandemic arrival levels 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 data, 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, traveling closer to home and making shorter trips.