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Global tourism will surpass one billion travellers by the end of 2023

The latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer also shows global spending will pass pre-pandemic levels next year.

Global tourist numbers are all but certain to recover in full next year.

The world will surpass one billion international tourists by the end of 2023 for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the latest data from the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO).

And the mark will be easily eclipsed, according to the global tourism monitor, with 975 million tourist arrivals recorded just for the first nine months of the year – an increase of 38 percent on 2022 – and setting up the world’s tourism industry to fully recover from the pandemic in 2024.

Cities and countries around the world welcomed 22 percent more visitors in the third quarter of 2023 than the corresponding period last year, significantly helped by swelling numbers throughout the European summer.

International tourist spending will also recovery in full next year.

Despite passing the one-billion mark once again – a level first achieved back in 2012 – global tourism still has a little way to go to fully recover from the devastating pandemic, with the final tally for the year expected to be around 90 percent of 2019 levels.

Global tourism spending is expected to reach US$1.4 trillion (AU$2.13 trillion) by the end of the year, close to the US$1.5 trillion (AU$2.28 trillion) spent around the world in 2019.

“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,” said UNWTO Secretary-General, Zurab Pololikashvili.

In the Asia-Pacific, the recovery has been mixed, with China’s slow reopening seeing the nation only at 50 percent of its pre-pandemic capacity from January to September 2023, whereas Southern Asia and the Pacific is almost fully recovered at 92 percent of its pre-pandemic glory.

The Middle East is the standout leader, with arrivals already reaching 20 percent above pre-pandemic figures in the first nine months of 2023.

Africa and Europe are both within touching distance of full recovery at 92 percent and 94 percent respectively.

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Written by: Matt Lennon
Published: 6 December 2023

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