Experts are optimistic, the strong recovery of tourism will continue into 2023, albeit at a slower pace.
Travel in Europe will be driven by short and medium-range trips, however, all eyes are on the recovery of long-range markets. Transatlantic travel is expected to continue to make a significant contribution to European destinations, while there is strong optimism about the return of travelers from Asia Pacific.
International tourism recovered 63% of pre-pandemic levels in 2022, with Europe and the Middle East leading.
The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has published some interesting data that we also want to share with you:
• International tourism performed better than expected in 2022, supported by strong pent-up demand and the lifting or easing of travel restrictions in many countries.
• Over 900 million tourists traveled abroad in 2022, twice as many as in 2021, although still 37% less than in 2019.
• International tourism recovered 63% of pre-pandemic levels, in line with UNWTO scenarios published in May 2022.
• Europe, the world’s largest destination region, recorded 585 million arrivals in 2022 to reach nearly 80% of pre-pandemic levels (-21% compared to 2019). The Middle East saw the strongest relative increase among the regions in 2022, with arrivals climbing to 83% of pre-pandemic numbers (-17% compared to 2019).
• Africa and the Americas both recovered about 65% of pre-pandemic visitors, while Asia and the Pacific only reached 23%, due to more stringent pandemic-related restrictions.
• By sub-regions, Western Europe (87%) and the Caribbean (84%) were closest to pre-pandemic levels.
• 2022 saw a strong rebound in tourism spending, leading to a recovery in pre-pandemic income levels in many destinations.
• Looking to the future, international tourism is set to consolidate its recovery in 2023, buoyed by pent-up demand, especially from Asia and the Pacific, with the opening of destinations and markets.
• The UNWTO’s expert group survey indicates that 72% of respondents expect better performance in 2023. However, most experts (65%) also believe that international tourism will not return to 2019 levels until 2024 or later.
Based on UNWTO’s scenarios for 2023, this year international tourist arrivals could reach 80% to 95% of pre-pandemic levels, with Europe and the Middle East expected to reach those levels. However, there are still significant risks, especially economic and geopolitical.
Tourists are expected to increasingly seek value for money and travel close to home in response to the challenging economic environment.
Reopening of Chinese borders to international travel, the importance of foreign currency exchange
The reopening of China’s borders to international travel in 2023 is good news for many.
In the first two months of the year – according to ENIT (National Tourism Agency) – the visas for tourism issued by Italy to Chinese citizens reached 30% compared to 2019 levels, and from March 15, Italy has been included in the list of authorized destinations also for groups.
The goal is to reach and exceed 2019 levels by 2024, a record year for outbound Chinese tourism, when Italy was the first destination in Europe with over 3 million arrivals and 5.4 million overnight stays.
International travel surely highlights an important aspect: that of payments and the need to facilitate foreign currency exchange, giving priority to transparent exchange fees and allowing settlement in multiple currencies, which is crucial for building trust and confidence in transactions, thereby encouraging purchases.
Digital and Mobile Device Bookings
The booking of travel has moved away from phone calls or physical spaces and has shifted online, especially through smartphones. This is why you should expect more digital bookings.
Users are increasingly relying on tourism technologies and travel apps at all stages, from planning to booking to the actual stay. This is why there is a strong emphasis on online marketing and web content management to ensure increasingly performing and well-indexed websites on search engines, with useful and interesting content.
Experiences and Hyper-Personalization
Stamped travel is out, regardless of the budget.
Companies working in tourism must continue to personalize or hyper-personalize the user’s purchasing experience flexibly, trying to adapt to their behaviors and personal experiences, to improve satisfaction and achieve better conversions.
Authentic experiences, such as local ones, continue to be highly sought after.
Sustainability, nature, and well-being are not just a trend
Among the trends related to tourism, there are certainly well-being, sustainability, hyper-personalization, digitization, and that is why the infrastructure supporting industry operators must continue to evolve with market expectations.
Wellness packages, focused on holistic well-being, from yoga retreats to SPAs, are expected to reach $29.3 billion in 2023 (Source: Euromonitor International’s travel forecasting model Q1 2023).
This preference continues to grow after the pandemic, as an antidote to urbanization and new hybrid work practices.
Of course, sustainability can be interpreted in a thousand ways both for those who travel and for those who welcome.
The UNWTO is committed to measuring greenhouse gas emissions, accelerating climate action, and supporting the implementation of commitments launched in November 2021 through the Glasgow Declaration on Climate Action in Tourism.
The Global Tourism Plastics Initiative unites the tourism sector behind a common vision to address the root causes of plastic pollution.
It enables businesses, governments, and other tourism stakeholders to lead by example in transitioning to a circular plastic economy.
By 2025 they commit to:
• eliminate problematic or unnecessary plastic packaging and items;
• act to move from single-use models to reusable models or reusable alternatives;
• (engage the value chain to) transition to 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable plastic packaging;
• act to increase the amount of recycled content in all plastic packaging and items used;
• collaborate and invest to increase plastic recycling and composting rates;
• report publicly and annually on progress made towards these goals.
Wedding tourism and destinations that are changing their vocation
Another interesting figure is dedicated to wedding tourism – as emerged from the Observatory Destination Weddings in Italy, conducted by Centro Studi Turistici and financed by the Ministry of Tourism – Italy in 2022 was the setting for over 11,000 foreign weddings, with Tuscany leading, followed by Lombardy, Campania, Puglia, Sicily and Lazio.
It is also curious to follow the metamorphosis of some cities after the pandemic, Milan among these. Chosen for business trips, conventions, and fairs, it is increasingly considered a leisure city by industry operators, explained Domenico Forte, vice-president of the Hospitality section of Assolombarda, during a recent conference held at the Bocconi University in collaboration with the Italian Association Confindustria Hotels.