Tourism saw a drastic growth in 2022 with more than 900 million tourists travelling internationally, which was double the number recorded in 2021. This shows that the industry has recovered from the Covid times and future travel would see a higher demand.
In its new analysis, the UNWTOsaid that tourists are nonetheless expected to increasingly seek value for money and travel closer to home in response to the challenging economic climate.
Based on UNWTO’s forward-looking scenarios for 2023, international tourist arrivals could reach 80% to 95% of pre-pandemic levels this year, depending on the extent of the economic slowdown, the ongoing recovery of travel in Asia and the Pacific and the evolution of the Russian offensive in Ukraine, among other factors.
UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said: “A new year brings more reason for optimism for global tourism. UNWTO anticipates a strong year for the sector even in the face of diverse challenges including the economic situation and continued geopolitical uncertainty. Economic factors may influence how people travel in 2023 and UNWTO expects demand for domestic and regional travel to remain strong and help drive the sector’s wider recovery.”
EUROPE AND THE MIDDLE EAST
The latest UNWTO analysis said that Europe, the world’s largest destination region, recorded 585 million arrivals in 2022 to reach nearly 80% of pre-pandemic levels. It said that this was supported by robust intra-regional demand and the implementation of coordinated travel measures. The region accounted for 64% of global arrivals in 2022.
The Middle East also enjoyed the strongest relative increase across regions in 2022 with arrivals climbing to 83% of pre-pandemic numbers. The region welcomed large events such as Expo 2020 Dubai and the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, as well as a highly attended Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia, the analysis noted.
In the analysis, the UNWTO said that Africa and the Americas both recovered about 65% of its pre-pandemic visitors, while Asia and the Pacific reached only 23%, due to stronger pandemic-related restrictions. Asia, which accounted for 25% of the world’s international tourists in 2019 represented only 9% in 2022.
STRONG REBOUND IN EARNINGS
the UNWTO also pointed out to notable increases in international tourism receipts across most destinations, in several cases higher than their growth in arrivals. The UN agency said that this happened because of the increase in average spending per trip due to longer periods of stay, the willingness by travelers to spend more in their destination, and higher travel costs partly due to inflation.
FUTURE INTERNATIONAL TOURISM
International tourism is expected to consolidate its recovery in 2023, backed by pent-up demand, particularly in Asia and the Pacific. It said that Europe is expected to drive results in 2023, with arrivals reaching or exceeding pre-pandemic levels and still considerable room for recovery in some destinations and subregions. The Middle East could also recover 2019 levels throughout 2023 after a strong rebound in 2022.
Moreover, the reopening of several Asian source markets and destinations would contribute to consolidate the recovery in 2023, te UN agency said. Moreover, the removal of COVID-19 related travel restrictions in China, the world’s largest outbound market in 2019, is a significant and much welcomed step to the recovery of the tourism sector in Asia and the Pacific and worldwide. “The resumption of travel from China is likely to benefit Asian destinations in particular. However, the choice of destinations will be shaped by the availability and cost of air travel, visa regulations and processes, as well as COVID-19 related restrictions,”the UNWTO said.
Apart from this, robust travel demand from the United States, backed by a strong US dollar, would benefit destinations in the region and beyond. Europe, in particular, will benefit partly due to a weaker euro versus the US dollar.
The improved performance of air traffic is expected to contribute to the ongoing recovery of international tourism in 2023. However, international seat capacity remained 37% below 2019 levels through September 2022 (IATA).
• Economic, health and geopolitical headwinds could weigh on the sustained recovery of international tourism and confidence levels in 2023.
• Challenging economic environment including high inflation and interest rates, the spike in oil and food prices, as well as the fears of a global recession, continues to be the main factor weighing on the recovery of tourism.
• Continued uncertainty derived from the Russian aggression against Ukraine and other mounting geopolitical tensions, health challenges related to COVID-19, as well as workforce shortages also represent downside risks.