According to the UN, international tourist arrivals will have doubled in 2022
A man throws his line into the Bosphorus Strait at Eminonu Ferry Terminal in Istanbul, Turkey on Tuesday, January 17, 2023. International tourist arrivals have doubled in 2022 from a year earlier and should reach near pre-pandemic levels in 2023 thanks to the lifting of travel restrictions, particularly in China, the UN tourism body said on Tuesday. Image for representation purposes only. | Credit: Francisco Seco
International tourist arrivals have doubled in 2022 from a year earlier and should reach near pre-pandemic levels in 2023 thanks to the lifting of travel restrictions, particularly in China, the United Nations tourism agency said on Tuesday.
Last year there were 917 million tourist arrivals worldwide, up from 455 million in 2021, the Madrid-based World Tourism Organization said in a report, calling it “stronger than expected results”.
While the number of international arrivals last year was just 63 percent of the 2019 level before the Covid-19 pandemic, the UN body predicts it could reach 80 to 95 percent in 2023.
“A new year brings more reason for optimism for global tourism,” the organization’s Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said in a statement.
According to the report, international tourism will consolidate its recovery in 2023, helped by pent-up demand, particularly from Asia and the Pacific, as destinations and markets open up.
“In the short term, the resumption of travel from China should benefit Asian destinations in particular,” she added.
“At the same time, robust demand from the United States, supported by a strong US dollar, will continue to benefit destinations in the region and beyond. Europe in particular will benefit from this.”
Travel to and from China fell dramatically from 2019 levels under Beijing’s strict Covid curbs, which nearly closed China’s borders for three years before reopening earlier this month.
The restrictions had left a gaping hole in the Asian travel market, where countries from Thailand to Japan depended on China as the largest source of foreign visitors.
Analysts believe that Chinese airlines are expected to significantly increase capacity from the end of March with the start of the summer scheduling season.
China was the world’s largest market for outbound tourists in 2019, and the lifting of its virus travel restrictions “is a significant and very welcome step in the tourism sector’s recovery,” the report said.
However, the UN panel warned that high inflation and interest rates, fears of a global recession and “uncertainty over Russia’s aggression against Ukraine” could hamper the sector’s recovery in 2023.
“Tourists are expected to increasingly seek value for money and travel close to home in response to the challenging economic environment,” she added.
Europe, the world’s most popular destination region, recorded 585 million arrivals last year, almost 80 percent of its pre-pandemic level, partly due to a “particularly strong” summer season.
But Africa and the Americas only recovered to about 65 percent of pre-pandemic visitors, while Asia and the Pacific region only managed 23 percent due to greater pandemic-related restrictions.
Most destinations also saw “noticeable increases” in international tourism revenue, buoyed by longer vacation trips, a willingness to spend more on travel and rising costs due to inflation.
Traditional markets like France and Germany, as well as emerging markets like India and Saudi Arabia, have seen “strong” spending numbers over the past year.
Several destinations, including Mexico, Portugal and Romania, even reported tourism revenue last year above pre-pandemic levels.