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May 21, 2024

International tourism reached 97%

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FA News Desk
Image UN Tourism
Image UN Tourism

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

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

In 2023 international tourist arrivals recovered 89% of 2019 levels, while export revenues from tourism remained at 97% and direct tourism GDP reached the same levels as in 2019.

UN Tourism’s projection for 2024 points to a full recovery of international tourism with arrivals growing 2% above 2019 levels.

In line with this, the newest data released by the UN specialized agency for tourism show that:

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, stated in the press release of the UN Tourism.

The Middle East saw the strongest relative growth, with international arrivals exceeding by 36% pre-pandemic levels in Q1 2024, or 4% above Q1 2023.

Europe, the world’s largest destination region, exceeded pre-pandemic levels in a quarter for the first time (+1% from Q1 2019). The region recorded 120 million international tourists in the first three months of the year, backed by robust intra-regional demand.

Africa welcomed 5% more arrivals in the first quarter of 2024 than in Q1 2019, and 13% more than in Q1 2023.

The Americas practically recovered pre-pandemic numbers this first quarter, with arrivals reaching 99% of 2019 levels.

International tourism is experiencing a rapid recovery in Asia and the Pacific where arrivals reached 82% of pre-pandemic levels in Q1 2024, after recovering 65% in the year 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.”

By subregions, North Africa saw the strongest performance followed by Central America, the Caribbean and Western Europe.

Southern Mediterranean Europe exceeded pre-pandemic levels by 1%, while South America virtually reached 2019 levels. Northern Europe recovered 98% of pre-pandemic levels, while Sub-saharan Africa and North America both recovered 95%.

According to available data, many destinations across the world continued to achieve strong results in Q1 2024, including Qatar, Albania, Saudi Arabia, Tanzania, Curaçao, Serbia, Turks and Caicos, Guatemala and Bulgaria.

The robust performance of international tourism can also be seen in the UN Tourism Confidence Index which reached 130 points (on a scale of 0 to 200) for the period January-April, above the expectations (122) expressed for this period in mid-January.

International tourism receipts reached USD 1.5 trillion in 2023, meaning a complete recovery of pre-pandemic levels in nominal terms, but 97% in real terms, adjusting for inflation. Total export revenues from international tourism, including both receipts and passenger transport, reached USD 1.7 trillion in 2023, about 96% of pre-pandemic levels in real terms.

Tourism direct GDP recovered pre-pandemic levels, reaching an estimated USD 3.3 trillion in 2023, equivalent to 3% of global GDP. Several destinations achieved remarkable results in terms of receipts this quarter as compared to 2019 levels based on available data, including Serbia, Türkiye, Pakistan, Tanzania, Portugal, Romania, Japan, Mongolia, Mauritius and Morocco.

International tourism is expected to recover completely in 2024 backed by strong demand, enhanced air connectivity and the continued recovery of China and other major Asian markets.

According to the UN Tourism Panel of Experts, economic and geopolitical headwinds continue to pose significant challenges to international tourism and confidence levels.

IMF’s latest World Economic Outlook (April 2024) points to a steady but slow economic recovery, though mixed by region. At the same time, persisting inflation, high interest rates, volatile oil prices and disruptions to trade continue to translate into high transport and accommodations costs.

Tourists are expected to continue to seek value for money and travel closer to home in response to elevated prices and the overall economic challenges, while extreme temperatures and other weather events could impact the destination choice of many travellers. This is increasingly mentioned by the UN Tourism Panel of Experts as a concern for the sector.

Uncertainty derived from the Russian aggression against Ukraine, the Hamas-Israel conflict and other mounting geopolitical tensions, are also important downside risks for international tourism.

As international tourism continues to recover and expand, fuelling economic growth and employment around the world, governments will need to continue adapting and enhancing their management of tourism at the national and local level to ensure communities and residents are at the center of this development.