The reopening of several source markets and destinations will drive the recovery and could even exceed 2019 international arrivals by 2%, according to the world tourism agency, which nevertheless warns of the impact of the wars in Gaza and Ukraine on traveller confidence

International tourism will recover to pre-pandemic levels by 2024

UN News/Matthew Wells  - Las pirámides de Giza, en Egipto.
UN News/Matthew Wells - The pyramids of Giza, Egypt.

International tourism will return to pre-pandemic levels by 2024, with initial projections pointing to 2% growth over 2019 rates, according to the latest report from the World Tourism Organisation (WHO).

This optimistic outlook takes into account the latest Tourism Confidence Index survey which indicates that 67% of tourism professionals point to 2024 as a busier year than 2023, 28% foresee similar results to last year and 6% believe tourism performance will be lower this year than last.  

The WTO noted, however, that the performance of the tourism industry remains subject to the pace of recovery in Asia, and to the evolution of the current unfavourable economic and geopolitical situation.    

According to the report, Asia still has plenty of room for recovery and the reopening of several source markets and destinations will drive recovery in the region and globally. 

Easier visas will accelerate tourism activity 

In addition, tourism will accelerate thanks to visa facilitation in China as well as in the Middle East and Africa. Gulf Cooperation Council countries will issue unified tourist visas, similar to the Schengen visa, and measures to facilitate intra-African travel in Kenya and Rwanda. 

Another factor that will help tourism to pick up will be the expected improvement in Europe with the entry into the Schengen zone of Romania and Bulgaria, and the hosting of the Summer Olympics in Paris.

On the other hand, tourism from the United States, supported by the strength of the US dollar, will benefit destinations on the continent. 

Uncertainty due to the geopolitical situation 

Regarding the unfavourable economic and geopolitical situation, UNWTO noted that it will be a challenge for the sustained recovery of traveller and industry confidence, considering the variables that may increase transport and accommodation costs, as well as the uncertainty due to conflicts and wars, among which the wars in Ukraine and Gaza stand out.   

WTO estimates that given these uncertainties, tourists will seek to get the most for their money and will travel to destinations closer to home.  

Among the elements currently affecting the industry, the WHO mentioned staff shortages, warning that tourism companies are facing a shortage of workers to meet demand

OMT Turismo en Georgia..
UNWTO - Tourism in Georgia

In 2023, 1.3 billion international arrivals will be recorded 

The agency reported that last year, international tourism was at 88% of pre-pandemic levels, with 1.3 billion international arrivals.  

By region, the Middle East led the recovery in relative terms and was the only region to exceed pre-pandemic rates, with arrivals 22% above those recorded in 2019. 

Europe and Africa followed in the rebound, with the former at 94% of pre-pandemic levels and remaining the world's most visited continent due to intra-regional demand and travellers from the United States, and the latter recovering 96% of 2019 visitors.  

The Americas achieved 90% of pre-pandemic indicators and Asia and the Pacific achieved 65% of the 2019 benchmark with varied results by sub-region. 

Thus, the Caribbean, Central America, Southern Mediterranean Europe and North Africa exceeded their 2019 arrivals. 

Tourism contributes 3% of global GDP 

In terms of money, international tourism reached 1.4 trillion dollars in 2023, about 93% of the 1.5 trillion dollars brought in by destinations in 2019.    

Tourism exports (including passenger transport) were estimated at 1.6 trillion dollars, almost 95% of the 1.7 trillion dollars recorded in 2019.

The World Tourism Organisation emphasised that the sector's economic contribution, measured in terms of direct Gross Domestic Product from tourism, reached 3.3 trillion dollars in 2023, 3% of global GDP.