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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

235M traveled across globe in 1st quarter of 2023–UNWTO

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THE recovery of global tourism remains on track, with an estimated 235 million traveling internationally in the first three months of the year, or about 80 percent of prepandemic levels in the same reference period.

The first quarter 2023 results, said the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) in a news statement, are in line with its projections for international arrivals to recover 80 percent to 90 percent of prepandemic levels, with the Northern Hemisphere expected to post a strong peak season from May to August.

Per the UNWTO’s second World Tourism Barometer, the Middle East was the only region that surpassed its prepandemic international tourist arrivals, growing by 15 percent in the first quarter of the year versus the same period in 2019. This was followed by Europe, which recovered 90 percent of prepandemic levels, Africa (88 percent), and the Americas (85 percent).

“Asia and the Pacific accelerated its recovery with  54 percent of prepandemic levels, but this upward trend is set to accelerate now that most destinations, particularly China, have reopened,” said the UNWTO.

Weak Chinese arrivals

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said: “The start of the year has shown again tourism’s unique ability to bounce back. In many places, we are close to or even above prepandemic levels of arrivals. However, we must remain alert to challenges ranging from geopolitical insecurity, staffing shortages, and the potential impact of the cost-of-living crisis on tourism, and we must ensure tourism’s return delivers on its responsibilities as a solution to the climate emergency and as a driver of inclusive development.”

If arrivals from China strengthen, the Philippines could be looking at inbound arrivals of 5.8 million this year, in a medium scenario under the just-approved National Tourism Development Plan (NTDP) for 2023-2028. Without the strength of the Chinese market, the Department of Tourism (DOT) has conservatively stuck to its baseline scenario projection of 4.8 million inbound arrivals this year.

The DOT has been with working with the Department of Foreign Affairs for an electronic visa system for Chinese tourists to accelerate their visits. “[If approved] we hope Chinese tourists pour in by the second half of the year,” said a tourism official, who spoke to the BusinessMirror on condition of anonymity. International visitor arrivals have reached 2 million from January 1 to May 12, representing 42 percent of the 2023 target. (See, “Visitors spent P168.58 billion in January-April,” in the BusinessMirror, May 15, 2023.)

Under the NTDP, total inbound arrivals in 2028—the last year of the Marcos Jr. administration—are projected to reach 11.5 million under the baseline scenario, 12.6 million (medium scenario), or 13.5 million (upside scenario).

International receipts hit $1 trillion

THE medium and upside scenarios, “reflect assessments of how successfully the world is able to exit the pandemic, manage the impact of the Ukraine conflict on global markets and shifting supply chains, and the degree of reopening of China and other major markets. It is also shaped to some extent by how major economies are able to manage recessionary pressures and, crucially, how the Philippines itself is able to gain and maintain momentum for its own economic growth while managing inflation,” according to the NTDP, a copy of which was obtained by this paper. It further said: “The Baseline Scenario reflects the projections from the Reformulated National Tourism Development Plan of 2016-2022, taking into consideration the impact of the pandemic.”

Meanwhile, the overall rebound in international travel likewise lifted international tourism receipts, reaching the US$1-trillion mark in 2022, or percent of prepandemic levels. “By regions, Europe enjoyed the best results in 2022 with nearly $550 billion in tourism receipts, or 87 percent of prepandemic levels. Africa recovered 75 percent of its prepandemic receipts, the Middle East 70 percent and the Americas 68 percent. Due to prolonged border shutdowns, Asian destinations earned about 28 percent.”

Revising its data last year, the UNWTO said over 960 million tourists traveled  internationally last year,  equivalent to 66 percent of prepandemic numbers.

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