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Business News/ News / World/  International tourism doubles in first quarter of 2023, reaching pre-pandemic levels

International tourism is rebounding to pre-pandemic levels, as twice as many people travelled during the first quarter of 2023 than in the same period of 2022, United Nations' World Tourism Organization(UNWTO) reported.

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

Approximately 235 million tourists travelled internationally in the first three months, more than double in the same period in 2022. Thus, international arrivals reached 80% of pre-pandemic levels in the first quarter of 2023.

Tourism has continued to show its resilience, data for 2022 indicates over 960 million(66% of pre-pandemic numbers) tourists travelling internationally last year were recovered. 

Regional recovery in first quarter 2023:

The Middle East witnessed strongest recovery as it was the only region outnumbering 2019 arrivals (+15%) and the first to recover pre-pandemic numbers.

Europe reached 90% of pre-pandemic levels which was driven by strong intra-regional demand.

The Americas reached about 85% and Africa reached 88% of 2019 levels.

Asia and the Pacific accelerated its recovery with 54% of pre-pandemic levels, but this rising trend is set to accelerate now that most destinations have re-opened, especially China.

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said, “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."

The report also highlighted that international tourism receipts touched the $1 trillion mark in 2022, growing 50 per cent in real terms compared to 2021 which was driven by the rebound in international travel. Global visitor spending reached 64 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, according to the report. 

Europe enjoyed the best results in 2022 with 87% of pre-pandemic levels (approx. $ 550 billion) in tourism receipts. The Middle East recovered 70% of its pre-pandemic receipts and the Americas 68% and Africa recovered 75%. Asian destinations earned about 28% due to prolonged border shutdowns.

COVID-19 no longer a health emergency

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Covid-19 is no longer a "global health emergency". The announcement comes three years after it was initially raised. Its highest level of warning over the coronavirus, came as a significant step towards putting an end to the pandemic.

Challenges facing the tourism sector

UNWTO panel of experts reported that the economic situation remains the main factor weighing on the effective recovery of international tourism in 2023. High inflation and rising oil prices translate into higher transport and accommodations costs. 

Hence, tourists increasingly seek value for money and travel closer to home in response to the challenging economic environment. Uncertainty derived from the Russian aggression against Ukraine and other mounting geopolitical tensions, also represent downside risks.

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Updated: 15 May 2023, 11:37 AM IST
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