RIYADH: The Middle East region witnessed the world’s strongest increase in international arrivals in 2022 in a clear sign the tourism sector is on its course to rebound to pre-pandemic levels this year, according to UN’s World Tourism Organization.
The latest data from UNWTO shows that international arrivals in the Middle East climbed to 83 percent of pre-pandemic numbers last year, followed by Europe, where the number of tourists hit 80 percent.
The report, however, noted that Asia and the Pacific reached only 23 percent of the pre-pandemic level in 2022, as most of the countries in the region, including China, only started easing pandemic-related restrictions in recent months.
Meanwhile, the data suggested that Africa and the Americas both recovered about 65 percent of their pre-pandemic visitors.
The UN agency further said that more than 900 million tourists traveled internationally in 2022, double the number of travelers compared to 2021, though still just at 63 percent of pre-pandemic levels.
According to UNWTO’s forward-looking scenarios for 2023, global international tourist arrivals could reach 80 percent to 95 percent of pre-pandemic levels in 2023.
UNWTO, however, added that this expected recovery will be dependent on various factors, which include the extent of the global economic slowdown and the status of the Ukrainian conflict.
“UNWTO anticipates a strong year for the sector even in the face of diverse challenges including the economic situation and continued geopolitical uncertainty,” said UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili.
He added: “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.”
It should be also noted that, by mid-January, at least 32 countries have imposed restrictions on Chinese travelers, and this factor will play a crucial role in the recovery of the Asia-Pacific region in 2023.
Earlier in January, Marriott Bonvoy’s 2023 Travel Trends research report had suggested that travelers in Saudi Arabia and the UAE prefer wellbeing-led holidays in 2023 and are planning to enjoy more vacations this year.
The report added that 93 percent of travelers in Saudi Arabia and the UAE are planning vacation trips in 2023, with around a quarter planning on staying in luxury accommodations while away.