GLOBAL tourism has recovered to 84 percent of its pre-pandemic levels from January to July 2023, with 700 million individuals traveling the world during the period.
Data from the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) showed the arrivals figure was 43-percent higher than the same period last year. The Middle East, Europe and Africa led the global recovery of the tourism sector.
Arrivals in the Asia Pacific region, to which the Philippines belongs, reached 215.58 million, just 39 percent below the 360.1-million arrivals in the same period in 2019. But the UNTWO remained hopeful, saying, “The reopening of China and other Asian markets is expected to continue boosting travel in the region and to other parts of the world. On August 10, China announced the resumption of outbound group tour services to a third batch of 78 countries, including the US, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Australia, India and most European countries. The number of countries has expanded from 60 in April to 138 in August.”
But the organization recognized that “the recovery of international travel to and from China has been hampered by still limited flight connectivity and visa backlogs.”
Pinoys’ travel spend abroad hit $3B
According to the UNWTO Tourism Dashboard, the Philippines recorded a 39-percent drop to 2.94 million in international arrivals during the reference period versus the same in 2019, while visitor receipts in real terms slipped by 17 percent to US$4.08 billion from January to June 2023, compared to the same period in 2019.
While many Filipinos are on revenge tourism mode, UNWTO data showed their travel expenditures abroad reached just US$2.9 billion in the first half of the year, or 50-percent below the $5.75 billion recorded in the same period in 2019.
In a statement, UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said: “UNWTO data once again shows how tourism is recovering strongly in every part of the world. But as our sector recovers, it also needs to adapt. The extreme weather events we have witnessed over recent months as well as the critical challenges of managing increasing tourism flows underline the need to build a more inclusive, sustainable and resilient sector and ensure recovery goes hand-in-hand with rethinking of our sector.”
According to the latest UNWTO Confidence Index, prospects for international arrivals from September to December 2023 point toward “continued recovery, though at a more moderate pace following the peak travel season of June-August.”
40 destinations recovered visitors
A survey of a panel of experts indicated, however, the “challenging economic environment could weigh on spending patterns over the remainder of the year, with tourists increasingly seeking value for money, traveling closer to home and making shorter trips,” said the UNWTO. Specifically, “persisting inflation and rising oil prices have translated into higher transport and accommodation costs. The combination of inflation and rising interest rates continue to put pressure on household budgets and confidence levels, and increase the cost of living,” it said.
The International Monetary Fund recently projected global economic growth slowing to 3 percent this year, from 3.5 percent in 2022. Central banks are expected to continue increasing their key interest rates to flight inflation, which will weigh on economic activity. As per the IMF, global inflation is predicted to fall to 6.8 percent this year, from 8.7 percent in 2022.
However, there remain risks that inflation rates will remain high or rise further. These include uncertainty from the continued aggression by Russia against Ukraine and other growing geopolitical tensions, as well as the resurgence of Covid-19 cases, according to the IMF.
The UNWTO’s survey also showed 37 percent of the respondents believe their respective countries will likely post a recovery in their tourism sector by 2024, while 27 percent said they already reached 2019 tourism levels. As per UNWTO data, 40 world destinations recovered pre-pandemic visitors in January-July 2023, including both large and smaller destinations, including several islands. These countries represent 16 percent of the world’s international arrivals, based on 2019 figures.