20 percent increase in tourist arrivals: Middle East outperforms pre-pandemic levels

International tourism revenues will reach $1.4 trn in 2023 
20 percent increase in tourist arrivals: Middle East outperforms pre-pandemic levels
Tourism sector witnessed 87 percent rebound from pre-pandemic levels

According to a report released by the World Tourism Organization (WTO), the Middle East region experienced a significant increase in tourist arrivals, with a 20 percent rise from pre-coronavirus levels during the nine-month period leading up to September 2023. Remarkably, the Middle East was the only region worldwide to surpass its tourism levels from 2019 within this timeframe.

Tourism restores pre-pandemic levels

The report attributes this achievement to various factors, including the implementation of measures to streamline visa processes, the development of new tourist destinations, investments in tourism-related projects, and the hosting of large-scale events. Overall, the tourism sector has shown promising signs of recovery, with a rebound of 87 percent in comparison to pre-pandemic levels between January and September 2023. It is expected that the sector will reach nearly 90 percent recovery by the end of the year.

The WTO has also projected that international tourism revenues will reach $1.4 trillion in 2023, which accounts for approximately 93 percent of the $1.5 trillion generated by destinations in 2019. Europe, as the largest destination region globally, welcomed 550 million international tourists during this period, representing 56 percent of the total global tourist arrivals. This figure corresponds to 94 percent of the pre-pandemic levels recorded in 2019.

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Strong demand

The region’s recovery was bolstered by robust demand both within the region itself and from the United States (U.S.). Over the course of the nine-month period, Africa managed to regain 92 percent of its pre-pandemic visitor levels, while the Americas saw arrivals reaching 88 percent of the figures recorded in 2019. The Americas benefited greatly from strong demand from the United States, especially for Caribbean destinations.

However, Asia and the Pacific experienced a slower recovery, with arrivals only reaching 62 percent of pre-pandemic levels during this period. This was mainly due to a deceleration in the reopening of international travel in the region.

Mixed performance

Meanwhile, the recovery performance varied across subregions. South Asia has managed to recover 95 percent of its pre-pandemic levels, while North-East Asia has only achieved a recovery rate of approximately 50 percent.

According to the most recent data from the WTO, international tourism is projected to reach nearly 90 percent of pre-pandemic levels by the end of this year. The report indicates that between January and September 2023, an estimated 975 million international tourists traveled, which represents a 38 percent increase compared to the corresponding months in 2022.

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