International tourism to soon reach pre-pandemic levels: UNWTO

 Monday, May 15, 2023 


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 last year, according to the United Nations’ World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

The latest data showed that approximately 235 million tourists travelled internationally in the first three months of this year, reaching 80 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.

960 million people travelled abroad

The UNWTO acknowledged the resilience of the tourism sector, citing that 960 million people had travelled abroad last year, representing a recovery to 66 per cent of pre-pandemic figures.

Middle East saw the strongest recovery

The Middle East saw the strongest recovery, exceeding its 2019 arrivals by 15 per cent and recovering to pre-pandemic numbers in a full quarter.

Europe reached 90 per cent of its pre-pandemic levels, driven by strong intra-regional demand.

Meanwhile, Africa and the Americas were at 88 per cent and 85 per cent of their 2019 levels, respectively.

Asia and the Pacific have accelerated their recovery to 54 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, with the UN agency writing that the upward trend is set to accelerate now that most destinations, including China, have reopened.

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili commented, that 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 arrival.

However, they must remain alert to challenges ranging from geopolitical insecurity, staffing shortages, and the potential impact of the cost-of-living crisis on tourism, and they 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 hit the $1 trillion mark in 2022, growing 50 per cent in real terms compared to 2021, driven by the rebound in international travel.

Global visitor spending reached 64 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, it added.

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, which comes three years after it initially raised its highest level of warning over the virus, came as a significant step towards putting an end to the pandemic.

As of 24 April, slightly over 3,500 people had died from the illness, down from a peak of more than 100,000 per week in January 2021, according to officials.

According to the WHO director, the epidemic claimed at least seven million lives worldwide.

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