The Sunday News
Judith Phiri, Business Reporter
THE United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has said international tourist arrivals could reach 80 percent to 95 percent of pre-pandemic levels this year.
Based on UNWTO’s forward-looking scenarios for 2023, it said this could be depending on the extent of the economic slowdown, the ongoing recovery of travel in Asia and the Pacific and the evolution of the Russian operation in Ukraine, among other factors.
In a statement, the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) said after the stronger than expected recovery in 2022, this year could see international tourist arrivals return to pre-pandemic levels in Europe and the Middle East. The authority said tourists are nonetheless expected to increasingly seek value for money and travel closer to home in response to the challenging economic climate.
“UNWTO anticipates a strong year for the sector even in the face of diverse challenges, including the economic situation and continued geopolitical uncertainty. According to new data UNWTO, more than 900 million tourists travelled internationally in 2022 – double the number recorded in 2021, though still 63 percent of pre-pandemic levels. Every global region recorded notable increases in international tourist numbers,” read part of the statement.
ZTA said the statistics indicated that the Middle East enjoyed the strongest relative increase as arrivals climbed to 83 percent of pre-pandemic numbers, Europe reached nearly 80 percent of pre-pandemic levels as it welcomed 585 million arrivals in 2022.
Whereas, Africa and the Americas both recovered about 65 percent of their pre-pandemic visitors, while Asia and the Pacific reached only 23 percent due to stronger pandemic-related restrictions, which have started to be removed only in recent months.
The first UNWTO World Tourism Barometer of 2023 also analyses performance by region and looks at top performers in 2022, including several destinations that have already recovered 2019 levels.
UNWTO Secretary-General Mr 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.”
The latest UNWTO Confidence Index shows cautious optimism for January to April, higher than the same period in 2022. This optimism is backed by the opening up in Asia and strong spending numbers in 2022 from both traditional and emerging tourism source markets, with France, Germany and Italy as well as Qatar, India and Saudi Arabia all posting strong results.