Tourism will return to pre-pandemic levels in 2023

This year, international tourist arrivals in Europe and the Middle East may return to pre-pandemic levels after a greater than anticipated rebound in 2022. Despite this, it is anticipated that travelers will seek for better value and stay closer to home in reaction to the difficult economic environment.

Global international tourist arrivals could reach 80% to 95% of pre-pandemic levels this year, according to UNWTO’s projections for 2023, depending on the severity of the economic slowdown, the pace of travel recovery in Asia and the Pacific, and the progress of the Russian offensive in Ukraine, among other factors.

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All regions are back

More than 900 million tourists traveled abroad in 2022, the UNWTO reports, which is double the number seen in 2021 but still 63% below pre-pandemic levels. The number of foreign tourists increased significantly across the board. The Middle East experienced the greatest relative growth, with arrivals reaching 83% of pre-pandemic levels. With 585 million newcomers arriving in Europe in 2022, pre-pandemic levels were almost exactly 80% restored. Due to stricter pandemic-related restrictions that have just recently begun to be lifted, Asia and the Pacific only regained around 23% of their pre-pandemic visits whereas Africa and the Americas both recovered over 65%. The first UNWTO World Tourism Barometer for 2023 examines top performers in 2022, including numerous locations that have already attained levels similar to 2019, as well as performance by region.

Zurab Pololikashvili, secretary-general of the UNWTO, stated: “More cause for confidence for international tourism is brought by a new year. Despite a number of obstacles, such as the state of the economy and ongoing geopolitical unrest, UNWTO predicts a successful year for the industry. In 2023, economic issues may have an impact on how people travel, but UNWTO anticipates that demand for domestic and regional travel will remain high and support the industry’s broader recovery.”

Everyone expecting the return of the Chinese

Even though the industry must contend with economic, health, and geopolitical problems, the UNWTO anticipates that the rebound will last through 2023. An important step toward the recovery of the tourism industry in Asia and the Pacific as well as globally has been the recent easing of COVID-19-related travel restrictions in China, the largest outbound market in 2019. The resumption of travel from China is expected to be advantageous for Asian destinations in especially in the short run. However, factors including the accessibility and expense of plane travel, rules regarding visas, and COVID-19-related limitations at the destinations will influence this. A total of 32 nations, largely in Asia and Europe, had placed particular travel restrictions relating to travel from China by mid-January.

At the same time, locations in the area and beyond will continue to profit from robust US demand, supported by a high US dollar. Due in part to the weaker euro relative to the US dollar, Europe will continue to see high US travel flows.

Most locations have seen noticeable increases in their international tourist receipts, often even higher than their growth in visitor numbers. This has been made possible by the rise in average trip spending brought on by longer stays, passengers’ desire to spend more when traveling, and rising inflationary travel prices. However, the state of the economy may result in tourists taking a more circumspect stance in 2023, with lower spending, shorter trips, and travel closer to home.

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In the next months, the rebound in tourism may be hampered by the persistence of uncertainty brought on by the Russian assault against Ukraine and other escalating geopolitical tensions, as well as health issues associated to COVID-19.

In comparison to the same period in 2022, the most recent UNWTO Confidence Index indicates cautious optimism for January to April. This optimism is supported by the opening up of Asia and excellent spending figures from both established and up-and-coming tourist source economies in 2022, with France, Germany, Italy, Qatar, India, and Saudi Arabia all reporting strong results.

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