As 2023 draws to a close, global tourism is expected to recover almost completely from the COVID-19 crisis, reaching 90% of its pre-pandemic levels. This resurgence signifies a robust rebound for the sector, which has been one of the hardest hit by the pandemic.
Resurgence of Global Tourism
International tourism is making a strong comeback. According to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), around 975 million tourists traveled internationally between January and September 2023. This is a 38% increase from the same period in 2022.
The Secretary-General of UNWTO, Zurab Pololikashvili, stated, "Our latest 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. This is critical for destinations, businesses, and communities where the sector is a major lifeline," as quoted by ZAWYA.
The Middle East is leading this recovery, with tourist arrivals 20% above pre-pandemic levels. This growth is attributed to factors like visa facilitation, the development of new destinations, and investments in tourism-related projects. Europe, the world's largest tourist destination, also saw a significant recovery, welcoming 550 million international tourists, which is 94% of its pre-pandemic levels.
Global tourism's rebound is further supported by strong demand from large source markets like Germany and the United States. Both countries reported an increase in outbound travel spending compared to 2019. The sustained recovery is reflected in the performance of industry indicators, such as air passenger numbers and tourist accommodation occupancy levels.
As per the source, these trends indicate a robust and sustained recovery for global tourism, setting it on a path to regaining pre-pandemic levels by 2024. Despite economic challenges and geopolitical tensions, the sector's resilience is evident, offering hope for a complete recovery in the near future.
Global Tourism and the Challenge of Over-Tourism
As global tourism is set to recover nearly 90% of its pre-pandemic levels by 2030, concerns about over-tourism and its impact on the environment and local communities are growing. The upcoming COP28 United Nations-led climate talks will focus on this issue, highlighting the need for sustainable travel.
In Asia, over-tourism is a significant problem. For instance, Phuket in Thailand has a ratio of 118 tourists to every local resident. This imbalance leads to environmental strain and affects local life. To tackle this, Asian countries are taking steps like closing popular beaches and using technology to control tourist numbers, as shared by Channel News Asia.
Japan's Kyoto city is using real-time data from live cameras to manage crowds at tourist spots. This helps in reducing congestion and maintaining a pleasant experience for visitors and residents alike.
Experts emphasize that the tourism sector is a major contributor to global emissions, with long-range air travel being particularly harmful to the planet. It's estimated that around 10% of global carbon dioxide emissions are due to tourism, mainly from travel to and from destinations.
In the post-pandemic world, there has been a surge in international travel. However, the trend of expensive "revenge travel" is now slowing down. Instead, domestic travel is becoming more popular as a sustainable alternative. A large number of internet users are planning domestic trips for 2024.
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