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International Tourism on the Verge of Pre-Pandemic Recovery in 2023


As 2023 draws to a close, international tourism is making a strong comeback, nearing 90% of its pre-pandemic levels.

The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has released data showing a significant rebound in global travel, with an estimated 975 million international tourists recorded between January and September 2023. This figure represents a 38% increase compared to the same period in 2022 and indicates a robust recovery for the industry.

The latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer highlights several key trends:

  • A 22% increase in international tourist arrivals in Q3 2023 compared to the previous year, fueled by a vibrant Northern Hemisphere summer season.
  • International tourist arrivals reached 91% of pre-pandemic levels in Q3, with July 2023 being the strongest month since the pandemic began.
  • An overall recovery of 87% of pre-pandemic levels in the first nine months of 2023, setting the sector on a trajectory to recover almost 90% by year’s end.
  • International tourism receipts are projected to hit USD 1.4 trillion in 2023, approximately 93% of the USD 1.5 trillion earned in 2019.

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili remarked, “The latest UNWTO data shows that international tourism has almost completely recovered from the unprecedented crisis of COVID-19, with many destinations reaching or even exceeding pre-pandemic arrivals and receipts.”

Regionally, the Middle East leads the recovery, with arrivals 20% above pre-pandemic levels in the first nine months of 2023. Europe, the world’s largest destination region, welcomed 550 million international tourists, representing 94% of its pre-pandemic levels. Africa also showed a strong recovery with 92% of pre-pandemic visitors, while the Americas reached 88% of 2019 numbers, buoyed by strong US demand. Asia and the Pacific have been slower to reopen to international travel, achieving 62% of pre-pandemic levels, with mixed performances across subregions.

Outbound travel demand has been robust, with countries like Germany, the United States, and Italy spending significantly more on international travel than in 2019. This recovery is further evidenced by industry indicators such as air passenger numbers and tourist accommodation occupancy levels, drawing on data from IATA and STR.

Despite economic challenges and geopolitical tensions, international tourism is poised to fully recover pre-pandemic levels by 2024. This resilience underscores the sector’s importance as a lifeline for destinations, businesses, and communities globally.

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