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World body now projects that international travel will return to pre-pandemic levels in 2023, at least in some regions

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  • Based on a stronger than expected recovery in 2022, the UNWTO is projecting that international travel levels will improve to as much as 90% of pre-pandemic levels in 2023, and especially so in regions such as the Middle East and Europe

The UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) is now projecting that international travel volumes will reach between 80% to 95% of pre-pandemic levels this year, with the strongest outlook for Europe and the Middle East.

Actual results will of course rely on a number of factors, including recovery in Asia specifically and the war in Ukraine.

The UNWTO puts the final tally for 2022 at 900 million international travellers. That’s more than double the total for 2021, but still only 63% of pre-COVID levels.

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said: “A new year brings more reason for optimism for global tourism. UNWTO anticipates a strong year for the sector even in the face of diverse challenges including the economic situation and continued geopolitical uncertainty. Economic factors may influence how people travel in 2023 and UNWTO expects demand for domestic and regional travel to remain strong and help drive the sector’s wider recovery.”

In its latest forecasts, the travel body has essentially upgraded its outlook for 2023 following stronger-than-expected performance in 2022, and signals an additional boost for Asian outbound travel given that, “The recent lifting of COVID-19 related travel restrictions in China, the world’s largest outbound market in 2019, is a significant step for the recovery of the tourism sector in Asia and the Pacific and worldwide.”

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