The UNWTO’s most recent data suggests the global travel industry is swiftly nearing its pre-pandemic highs. Despite the omnipresent economic and geopolitical challenges, international tourism demonstrates unmatched resilience. The World Tourism Barometer by UNWTO details this impressive trajectory. Between January and July 2023, global tourist arrivals scaled up to 84% of what they once were before the pandemic. This marked the movement of a staggering 700 million international tourists during the period, showcasing a 43% increase compared to the same months in 2022. Significantly, July alone accounted for about 145 million international travelers, making up nearly 20% of the seven-month total.
UNWTO Secretary-General, Zurab Pololikashvili, weighed in on the developments. He accentuated the universal recovery of the sector and stressed the industry’s need for evolution amidst these times of recovery. Pololikashvili’s insights suggest that the shifting global landscape, including recent extreme weather patterns and growing challenges from booming tourism flows, underscores an urgent need for a more inclusive, sustainable, and resilient travel sector. On a regional scale, the Middle East stands out, with tourism figures reflecting a 20% surge over pre-pandemic levels. This achievement singles out the Middle East as the only region to outpace its 2019 figures.
Europe, a dominant force in the global travel market, reached 91% of its pre-pandemic levels, significantly bolstered by increased intra-regional travel and notable visits from American travelers. Africa closely followed, registering a recovery of 92% of its pre-pandemic visitor count over the seven months, while available data sets the Americas at an 87% recovery rate. Meanwhile, Asia and the Pacific, following multiple openings of destinations and source markets at the end of 2022 and the beginning of this year, marked a notable recovery speed, capturing 61% of pre-pandemic arrival rates.
The World Tourism Barometer provides further granularity, offering insights by region, sub-region, and country, with an emphasis on top-performing destinations in terms of international arrivals and receipts from the start of the year to July. These numbers provide substantial optimism for the sector’s prospects in 2023. Projections indicate that international tourism is well poised to reclaim between 80% and 95% of its pre-pandemic levels by the close of the year. The UNWTO Confidence Index lends further support to this optimism, predicting continued recovery from September to December, albeit potentially at a slightly moderated pace following the bustling travel months of June through August.