SINGAPORE, 25 January 2024: International tourism should fully recover to pre-pandemic levels in 2024, with initial estimates pointing to 2% growth above what was recorded in 2019, UNWTO forecast reported last week
UNWTO’s Tourism Recovery Tracker reported that international air capacity and passenger demand recovered about 90% of pre-pandemic levels through October 2023 (IATA). Global occupancy rates in accommodation establishments reached 65% in November, slightly above 62% in November 2022 (based on STR data).
However, the forecast by UNWTO remains subject to the pace of recovery in Asia and the evolution of existing economic and geopolitical downside risks.
UNWTO’s Tourism Confidence Index survey reflects a positive outlook based on a poll of tourism professionals. 67% of them indicated better or much better prospects for 2024 compared to 2023.
Some 28% expect similar performance, while only 6% expect tourism performance in 2024 to be worse than last year.
The evolution of the Hamas-Israel conflict may disrupt travel in the Middle East and impact traveller confidence. Uncertainty derived from the Russian aggression against Ukraine and other mounting geopolitical tensions continues to weigh on confidence.
There is significant room for recovery across Asia. Reopening several source markets and destinations will boost regional and global recovery.
Chinese outbound and inbound tourism is expected to accelerate in 2024 due to visa facilitation and improved air capacity. China is applying for visa-free travel for citizens of France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Malaysia for a year to 30 November 2024.
Visa and travel facilitation measures will promote travel to and around the Middle East and Africa with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries to implement a unified tourist visa, similar to the Schengen visa, and measures to facilitate intra-African travel in Kenya and Rwanda.
Europe is expected to drive results again in 2024. Romania and Bulgaria will join the Schengen area of free movement in March, and Paris will host the Summer Olympics in July and August.
Strong travel from the US, backed by a strong US dollar, will continue to benefit destinations in the Americas and beyond. As in 2023, robust source markets in Europe, the Americas and the Middle East will continue to fuel tourism flows and spending worldwide.
Economic and geopolitical headwinds continue to pose significant challenges to the sustained recovery of international tourism and confidence levels.
Persisting inflation, high-interest rates, volatile oil prices, and disruptions to trade can continue to impact transport and accommodation costs in 2024.
Against this backdrop, tourists increasingly seek value for money and travel closer to home. Sustainable practices and adaptability will also play an increasing role in consumer choice.
Staff shortages remain a critical issue, as tourism businesses face a shortfall in labour to cope with high demand.