Home Tourism International Tourism Reaches 97% of Pre-Pandemic Levels in Q1 2024

International Tourism Reaches 97% of Pre-Pandemic Levels in Q1 2024

International tourism has surged to near pre-pandemic levels, with global tourist arrivals reaching 97% of the numbers seen in the first quarter of 2024, according to the latest data from the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). This marks a significant milestone in the sector’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, as more than 285 million tourists travelled internationally between January and March 2024, a 20% increase from the same period in 2023.

In 2023, international tourist arrivals had already bounced back to 89% of 2019 levels, with export revenues from tourism hitting 96%, and direct tourism GDP matching pre-pandemic figures. The UNWTO projects a full recovery in 2024, with arrivals expected to grow 2% above 2019 levels.

Regional Performance Highlights

The Middle East has led the recovery, with international arrivals in Q1 2024 exceeding pre-pandemic levels by 36% and showing a 4% increase over Q1 2023. Europe, the world’s largest destination region, saw international arrivals surpass pre-pandemic levels for the first time in a quarter, recording 120 million tourists, driven by strong intra-regional demand.

Africa also showed impressive growth, welcoming 5% more tourists in Q1 2024 compared to Q1 2019, and 13% more than in Q1 2023. The Americas nearly reached pre-pandemic levels with a 99% recovery. Meanwhile, Asia and the Pacific, recovering more slowly, saw arrivals at 82% of pre-pandemic levels in Q1 2024, a significant increase from 65% in 2023.

Notable Country Performances

Several destinations reported remarkable results, with Qatar experiencing a staggering 177% increase in arrivals compared to Q1 2019, and other countries like Albania (+121%), Saudi Arabia (+98%), and El Salvador (+90%) showing strong gains.

International tourism receipts totalled USD 1.5 trillion in 2023, fully recovering in nominal terms and reaching 97% in real terms after adjusting for inflation. Europe generated the highest receipts, with USD 660 billion, surpassing pre-pandemic levels by 7% in real terms. The Middle East saw a 33% increase in receipts over 2019 levels, while the Americas and Africa recovered 96% and 95% of their pre-pandemic earnings, respectively. Asia and the Pacific recovered 78% of pre-crisis receipts. Total export revenues from international tourism, including both receipts and passenger transport, amounted to USD 1.7 trillion in 2023, reaching 96% of pre-pandemic levels in real terms. Tourism’s direct GDP matched pre-pandemic levels, hitting an estimated USD 3.3 trillion in 2023, which is 3% of global GDP.

Outlook and Challenges

Looking ahead, the UNWTO’s Confidence Index for May-August 2024 indicates a positive outlook, with a score of 130, reflecting stronger sentiment than earlier in the year. Despite the robust recovery, challenges remain. Economic and geopolitical uncertainties, including inflation, high interest rates, volatile oil prices, and conflicts such as the Russian aggression against Ukraine and the Hamas-Israel conflict, pose risks to sustained growth.

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili emphasized the importance of sustainable and inclusive tourism policies to mitigate the sector’s impact on resources and communities. As tourism continues to expand, effective destination management will be crucial to ensuring that growth benefits both economies and local populations.

The resurgence of international tourism is a welcome development, providing a significant boost to global economies and livelihoods worldwide..