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World tourism heads to pre-pandemic levels

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World tourism heads to pre-pandemic levels

The number of foreign tourists doubled in the world in 2022 and will approach pre-pandemic levels in 2023 due to the lifting of sanitary restrictions, especially in China, the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) announced on Tuesday.

According to a statement from this Madrid-based UN agency, “more than 900 million tourists made international trips in 2022, twice as many as in 2021”, although that figure still represents 63% of 2019, the year before the pandemic. of covid.

“All regions of the world registered notable increases” of international tourists, found the UNWTO, although with differences.

The Middle East enjoyed the largest relative increase, with arrivals rising to 83% of pre-pandemic numbers. Europe reached almost 80% and Africa and the Americas recovered around 65% of visitors.

The rebound was smaller in the Asia-Pacific region, which reached only 23% of the pre-pandemic level, as it was the region that maintained the most restrictions.

An example of recovery was Spain itself, the second world destination before Covid, which already in 2022 exceeded its pre-pandemic levels in revenue, but not so much due to the arrivals of foreigners as due to national tourism, according to the employers’ association of the sector, Exceltur.

According to this organization, Spanish tourist GDP reached 159,000 million euros (172,000 dollars), 1.4% more than in 2019, thanks to a great summer and Spanish tourists, who from April increased their “trips and tourist consumption.

Reasons for optimism

The revitalization of tourism will accelerate in 2023, thanks above all to the lifting of restrictions on foreign travel by China, after three years of blockade, the UNWTO predicts.

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The Secretary General of the UNWTO, Zurab Pololikashvili, affirmed that the new year “brings new reasons for optimism for world tourism.”

According to the organization he directs, international tourist arrivals could be “between 80% and 95% of pre-pandemic levels this year.”

But that will depend “on how travel in Asia and the Pacific recovers and on the evolution of the Russian offensive in Ukraine,” among other factors.

The high inflation that hits almost everyone could also lead travelers to adopt “a more cautious attitude in 2023, with less spending, shorter trips and closer to places,” he added.

the chinese factor

Before the pandemic, China was the world‘s largest source market for tourists: in 2019, 154 million Chinese went on vacation abroad, according to the UNWTO.

The Chinese were also the biggest spenders, with $255 billion disbursed in 2019, 17% of total international tourism spending.

For the UNWTO, the return of Chinese tourists should mainly benefit Asian countries.

However, “the situation will change depending on the availability and costs of travel, visa regulations and COVID-19 restrictions in destinations,” UNWTO said.

In Europe and the Middle East, the number of foreign visitors may already be similar to what it was before the pandemic.

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