International tourism is continuing its steady recovery after coming to an almost complete standstill during the Covid-19 pandemic. In the first half of 2023, it reached 84% of 2019 levels, according to the latest data from UNWTO.
Tourism demand continues to show remarkable resilience and sustained recovery, even in the face of economic and geopolitical challenges. The new issue of the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer tracks the sector’s recovery over the course of 2023 up to the end of July, showing that, by the end of July, international tourist arrivals reached 84% of pre-pandemic levels. 700 million tourists travelled internationally between January and July 2023, 43% more than in the same months of 2022, July being the busiest month with 145 million international travellers recorded, about 20% of the seven-month total.
As our sector recovers, it also needs to adapt. The extreme weather events we have witnessed 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.Zurab Pololikashvili, UNWTO Secretary-General
Regionally, 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 one to exceed 2019 levels so far. Europe, the world’s largest destination region, only 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 in the seven-month period and the Americas 87% according to available data. Asia and the Pacific is lagging behind, due to the slower reopening of borders, having only reached 61% of pre-pandemic arrival levels.
The 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 Confidence Index, though at a more moderate pace following the peak travel season of June-August. The projections 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.
However, 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, travelling closer to home and making shorter trips.