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Tourism’s Comeback: Nearly Full Recovery Seen in First Quarter of 2024

International tourist arrivals reached 97% of pre-pandemic levels in the first quarter of 2024.

According to UN Tourism, over 285 million tourists traveled internationally from January to March, about 20% more than in the first quarter of 2023. This data underscores the sector’s near-complete recovery from the impacts of the pandemic.

In 2023, international tourist arrivals recovered to 89% of 2019 levels. Export revenues from tourism remained at 97%, and direct tourism GDP matched 2019 levels.

UN Tourism projects a full recovery of international tourism in 2024, with arrivals growing 2% above 2019 levels.

Dubai Mall exterior with visitors entering

The latest data shows the Middle East leading in growth, with arrivals exceeding pre-pandemic levels by 36% in Q1 2024. Europe saw a 1% increase from Q1 2019, with 120 million international tourists in the first three months of 2024.

Africa welcomed 5% more arrivals than in Q1 2019 and 13% more than in Q1 2023. The Americas nearly recovered pre-pandemic numbers, with arrivals reaching 99% of 2019 levels. Asia and the Pacific saw arrivals reach 82% of pre-pandemic levels in Q1 2024, after recovering 65% in 2023.

UN Tourism Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said, “The recovery of the sector is very welcome news for our economies and the livelihoods of millions. Yet it also recalls the need to ensure adequate tourism policies and destination management, aiming to advance sustainability and inclusion, while addressing the externalities and impact of the sector on resources and communities.”

Subregions showed strong performances, with North Africa seeing a 23% increase in international arrivals compared to pre-pandemic levels, followed by Central America (+8%), the Caribbean and Western Europe (both +7%). Southern Mediterranean Europe exceeded pre-pandemic levels by 1%, while South America nearly reached 2019 levels. Northern Europe recovered 98% of pre-pandemic levels, while Subsaharan Africa and North America both recovered 95%.



Destinations like Qatar (+177% vs. Q1 2019), Albania (+121%), and Saudi Arabia (+98%) achieved remarkable results. Other strong performers included Tanzania (+53%), Curaçao (+45%), Serbia (+43%), Turks and Caicos (+42%), Guatemala (+41%), and Bulgaria (+38%).

The robust performance of international tourism is also reflected in the UN Tourism Confidence Index, which reached 130 points for January-April, above the expectations expressed in mid-January.


In 2023, international tourism receipts reached USD 1.5 trillion, matching pre-pandemic levels in nominal terms. Europe generated the highest receipts, with USD 660 billion, exceeding pre-pandemic levels by 7% in real terms. The Middle East saw receipts climb 33% above 2019 levels. The Americas recovered 96% of pre-pandemic earnings, and Africa 95%. Asia and the Pacific earned 78% of pre-crisis receipts.

Looking ahead, international tourism is expected to fully recover in 2024, backed by strong demand, enhanced air connectivity, and the continued recovery of China and other major Asian markets. The UN Tourism Confidence Index shows positive prospects for the summer season, with a score of 130 for May-August 2024.

Challenges remain, with economic and geopolitical headwinds posing significant risks. The IMF’s latest World Economic Outlook points to a steady but slow economic recovery. Persisting inflation, high interest rates, volatile oil prices, and trade disruptions translate into high transport and accommodation costs.

Paris hotel

Tourists are likely to seek value for money and travel closer to home due to elevated prices and economic challenges. Extreme weather events could also impact destination choices. Geopolitical tensions, such as the Russian aggression against Ukraine and the Hamas-Israel conflict, add to the risks for international tourism.

As tourism continues to recover and expand, governments need to adapt and enhance tourism management to ensure communities and residents are central to this development.

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