International tourism levels will be slightly higher than its pre-pandemic levels in 2024 boosted by an expected resurgence in Asia, the UN’s World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) said Friday.
“International tourism is expected to fully recover pre-pandemic levels in 2024, with initial estimates pointing to 2.0 percent growth above 2019 levels,” the Madrid-based agency said in a statement.
Figures for last year showed that 1.3 billion tourists travelled abroad, 44 percent higher than in 2022 and 88 percent of the numbers in 2019.
UNTWO pointed to “a stronger recovery of Asian markets” but noted that the biggest rise was in the Middle East which was “the only region to overcome pre-pandemic levels with arrivals 22 percent above 2019”.
Europe, the world’s most visited region, also saw a strong performance with tourism reaching 94 percent of its 2019 figures, with African figures reaching 96 percent.
In relative terms, the Asia-Pacific region was the weakest with just 65 percent of pre-pandemic levels, despite China’s lifting of health restrictions a year ago after a strict three-year zero-Covid strategy when it cut itself off from the world.
“The latest UNWTO data underscores tourism’s resilience and rapid recovery, with pre-pandemic numbers expected by the end of 2024,” its Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said in the statement.
Chinese tourism was expected to gather pace this year with Beijing offering visa-free travel for citizens of France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Malaysia until the end of November.
The prediction for 2024, however, “remains subject to the pace of recovery in Asia and to the evolution of existing economic and geopolitical downside risks,” it said, notably due to the Israel-Hamas war and the unsettled global economy.
“Persisting inflation, high interest rates, volatile oil prices and disruptions to trade can continue to impact transport and accommodations costs in 2024,” it warned.