Global Tourism Statistics: the Best 3 Countries to Visit in the World

Tourism Statistics

Updated On: April 06, 2024 by   Panseih GharibPanseih Gharib

Tourism statistics are one of the most discussed topics around the globe. Tourism is basically travelling, whether for pleasure or business. Whether your travel is domestic (within your native country) or international, it falls under the industry of tourism as long as you spend less than twelve consecutive months in a place other than your main city. Tourism has been a source of income and economic development in many countries around the world. Even though the tourism industry has been changing because of political and global health issues, many people still want to travel, and it is a great source of income for many countries.

“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.”

Gustave Flaubert

Global Tourism Statistics in 2019

The year 2019 witnessed remarkable trends and figures in the global tourism landscape, reflecting the enduring allure of travel and its significant economic impact worldwide. From international tourist arrivals to contributions to GDP and employment, here’s a comprehensive look at the key statistics shaping the tourism industry in 2019.

International Tourist Arrivals

global tourism statistics
Global tourism statistics

International tourism continued its upward trajectory in 2019, with approximately 1.5 billion international tourist arrivals recorded worldwide. This figure represented a notable 4% increase compared to the previous year, underscoring the enduring appeal of destinations across the globe. Despite geopolitical challenges and economic uncertainties, the desire to explore new cultures and experiences remained strong among travellers, driving the steady growth in international arrivals.

Travel and Tourism Direct Contribution to GDP

The travel and tourism sector reaffirmed its status as a cornerstone of the global economy, making a significant direct contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In 2019, the direct contribution of travel and tourism to the global GDP surpassed an impressive $2.9 trillion USD. This substantial financial contribution highlighted the sector’s resilience and its ability to generate substantial economic value, supporting livelihoods and fostering economic growth across diverse regions.

Top Destinations

Traditional tourist hotspots continued to dominate the list of top destinations in 2019, with France, Spain, and the United States retaining their positions as the most visited countries. These destinations captivated travellers with their rich cultural heritage, iconic landmarks, and diverse attractions, drawing millions of visitors from around the world. Despite emerging contenders and shifting travel preferences, these perennial favourites maintained their allure and appeal, reaffirming their status as must-visit destinations for global travellers.

Tourism Expenditure

Tourism expenditure remained a significant driver of global economic activity in 2019, with travellers from various countries contributing substantially to the economies of their chosen destinations. The United States emerged as the leader in tourism expenditure, with American tourists spending approximately $144 billion USD abroad. This substantial outflow of spending underscored the purchasing power and consumer behaviour of American travellers, highlighting the importance of outbound tourism to both domestic and international economies.

Employment

The tourism sector continued to be a vital source of employment, offering opportunities for millions of people worldwide. In 2019, the sector supported an estimated 330 million jobs globally, accounting for approximately 1 in 10 jobs around the world. From hospitality and transportation to retail and entertainment, tourism-related activities provided livelihoods to individuals across diverse socio-economic backgrounds, contributing to inclusive economic growth and social development.

Global Tourism Statistics in 2020

The year 2020 brought unprecedented challenges for the global tourism industry as the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on travel and hospitality sectors worldwide. Here’s a closer look at the staggering statistics that underscored the severity of the crisis:

Massive Decline in Arrivals

In the wake of the pandemic, international tourist arrivals experienced a catastrophic decline, plummeting by approximately 72% to 74% compared to the previous year. This drastic reduction equated to roughly 1 billion fewer visitors traversing the globe, as per data from the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer published in December 2020. The sudden cessation of travel, border closures, and stringent lockdown measures imposed by governments around the world precipitated a seismic shift in global mobility patterns, bringing international tourism to an abrupt standstill.

Financial Losses

The precipitous drop in tourist arrivals translated into substantial economic losses for destinations reliant on tourism revenue. Export revenues generated from international tourism witnessed a staggering decline of approximately 62% in 2020 compared to 2019, resulting in an estimated loss of around US$1.3 trillion. The decimation of tourism income dealt a severe blow to the economic stability and resilience of countries heavily dependent on the tourism sector, exacerbating fiscal strains and hindering recovery efforts.

Impact on Jobs

The profound disruptions wrought by the pandemic had far-reaching consequences for employment within the tourism industry. Millions of livelihoods were jeopardised as businesses grappled with the unprecedented challenges posed by the sudden downturn in tourist arrivals and revenue streams. Estimates from the UNWTO’s COVID-19 and Tourism report for 2020 indicated that the decline in tourism significantly impacted employment, with countless jobs at risk across various segments of the tourism value chain. From hotels and airlines to tour operators and local artisans, the ripple effects of the pandemic reverberated throughout the global workforce, underscoring the vulnerability of tourism-dependent communities to external shocks.

Global Tourism Statistics in 2021

Global tourism statistics

Despite some glimmers of hope for recovery, the global tourism industry in 2021 continued to face formidable challenges as it sought to rebound from the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s a detailed examination of the key statistics that shaped the tourism landscape in the year:

Modest Increase in Arrivals

In 2021, international tourist arrivals registered a modest increase of 4% compared to the dismal levels of 2020, reaching approximately 415 million. While this uptick offered a semblance of progress, it represented a significant decline of 72% compared to the pre-pandemic benchmark of 2019. The slow pace of recovery underscored the enduring challenges faced by the tourism industry in restoring traveller confidence and rebuilding momentum amidst ongoing uncertainties surrounding the pandemic.

Economic Improvement, Yet Shortfall

The tourism industry’s contribution to the global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) showed signs of improvement in 2021, with estimated revenues rising to US$1.9 trillion compared to US$1.6 trillion in 2020. However, this figure remained well below the pre-pandemic level of US$3.5 trillion, signalling a substantial shortfall in economic output. The sluggish recovery in GDP contribution underscored the lingering impact of travel restrictions, border closures, and consumer hesitancy on tourism-related economic activities, highlighting the need for sustained efforts to stimulate demand and restore confidence in travel.

Shifting Spending Patterns

While export revenues from international tourism exhibited a slight improvement in 2021, driven by increased spending per trip, the overall figures remained depressed compared to pre-pandemic levels. Export revenues totalled an estimated US$700 billion, reflecting a 59% decrease compared to 2019. The shift in spending patterns underscored evolving consumer behaviour and preferences amidst the pandemic, with travellers prioritising experiences, safety, and sustainability in their travel choices. Despite incremental gains in spending, the tourism industry continued to grapple with the challenges of rebuilding revenue streams and revitalising tourism-dependent economies in a post-pandemic landscape.

Global Tourism Statistics in 2022

As the world continued to grapple with the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, the global tourism industry in 2022 witnessed significant strides towards recovery, albeit against the backdrop of lingering uncertainties and regional disparities. Here’s a comprehensive analysis of the key statistics that defined the tourism landscape in the year:

Rebound in Arrivals

In 2022, international tourist arrivals staged a remarkable rebound, doubling from the levels recorded in 2021 to surpass 900 million. This surge in arrivals marked a significant milestone in the industry’s recovery journey, signalling a resurgence in global travel demand. However, despite the notable increase, international arrivals remained approximately 37% lower than pre-pandemic levels in 2019, underscoring the enduring impact of the pandemic on global mobility patterns and travel behaviour.

Recovery at 63%

The overall recovery of international tourism in 2022 reached 63% of pre-pandemic levels, aligning closely with earlier projections and forecasts. This milestone represented a significant achievement for the tourism industry, reflecting the resilience and adaptability of stakeholders amidst evolving market dynamics and shifting consumer preferences. While the progress towards recovery was encouraging, the road ahead remained fraught with challenges, requiring sustained efforts to consolidate gains and address existing vulnerabilities.

Regional Variations

Regional disparities characterised the global tourism recovery landscape in 2022, with varying degrees of progress observed across different regions. Europe emerged as a frontrunner in the rebound, with arrivals nearing 80% of pre-pandemic levels, buoyed by the easing of travel restrictions and pent-up demand for leisure and cultural experiences. Similarly, the Middle East witnessed a strong relative increase in arrivals, reaching 83% of pre-pandemic numbers, driven by strategic investments in tourism infrastructure and promotional efforts to attract visitors.

Revenue on the Rise

Despite the challenges posed by the lingering effects of the pandemic, international tourism receipts surged to the US$1 trillion mark once again in 2022, reflecting the resurgence in travel activity and spending. This milestone underscored the resilience of the tourism sector and its capacity to rebound in the face of adversity. However, it’s important to note that while revenues showed signs of recovery, they remained 36% lower compared to pre-pandemic levels in real terms, highlighting the need for sustained efforts to revitalise tourism economies and rebuild revenue streams.

Global Tourism Statistics in 2023

As the world continued its journey towards recovery from the unprecedented disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic, 2023 emerged as a pivotal year for the global tourism industry. While comprehensive official reports for the entire year may not yet be available, insights and projections from the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) offer valuable insights into the trends and dynamics shaping the tourism landscape:

Recovery Nearing Completion

2023 witnessed significant progress towards the restoration of global tourism, with international tourist arrivals estimated to have reached 88% of pre-pandemic levels by the end of the year. This remarkable milestone translated to approximately 1.3 billion international arrivals, signalling a resurgence in travel demand and mobility. The steady uptick in arrivals underscored the resilience and adaptability of the tourism sector in overcoming the challenges posed by the pandemic and rebuilding momentum towards pre-crisis levels of activity.

Economic Boost

The revival of international tourism also brought a welcome economic boost, with tourism receipts – representing tourist spending – estimated to have reached US$1.4 trillion in 2023. This figure amounted to approximately 93% of pre-pandemic levels, reflecting a robust recovery in consumer confidence and expenditure on travel-related experiences and services. The resurgence in tourism revenues not only bolstered tourism-dependent economies but also contributed to broader economic recovery efforts, driving employment generation, investment inflows, and economic diversification in destination communities worldwide.

Regional Variations

Regional disparities continued to characterise the global tourism recovery landscape in 2023, with Europe and the Middle East emerging as frontrunners in the journey towards full recovery. These regions were projected to have fully recovered by reaching or exceeding pre-pandemic tourist arrival numbers, buoyed by strategic investments in tourism infrastructure, effective containment measures, and robust promotional efforts to attract visitors. However, it’s important to note that while some regions experienced rapid recovery, others faced challenges due to economic or geopolitical factors, leading to uneven progress in the global tourism rebound.

Uneven Recovery

Despite the overall positive trajectory of global tourism recovery, disparities persisted across different regions, reflecting varying degrees of resilience and vulnerability to external shocks. While some destinations successfully navigated the challenges posed by the pandemic and rebounded swiftly, others grappled with persistent uncertainties and structural constraints that hindered their recovery efforts. The full picture of regional variations and the factors driving them will likely be elucidated in future UNWTO reports, providing valuable insights into the complex dynamics shaping the global tourism landscape.

Statistic2019202020212022 (Estimated)2023 (Estimated)
International Tourist Arrivals (Millions)1,5003814159651,323
Change from Previous Year (%)+4%-74.60%+8.9%+132.5%+37.2%
Recovery from 2019 (%)100%25.40%27.70%64.30%88.20%
International Tourism Receipts (US$ Trillion)N/AN/A1.911.4
Change from Previous Year (%)N/AN/A+18.8%+50%+40%
Recovery from 2019 (%)N/AN/AN/A63%93%
A recap of global tourism statistics from 2019 to 2023

Projections for Global Tourism in 2024

As the world looks ahead to the prospects of global tourism in 2024, forecasts and predictions paint an optimistic picture of a sector poised for a robust recovery and resurgence. Here’s an in-depth analysis of the key predictions shaping the outlook for the tourism industry:

Full Recovery or Higher

The World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) anticipates a full recovery for international tourism in 2024, with projections indicating that arrival numbers could reach or even surpass pre-pandemic levels of 1.5 billion. This optimistic forecast reflects the resilience and adaptability of the tourism sector in overcoming the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and rebounding towards pre-crisis levels of activity.

Growth Estimates

Some sources go even further, predicting an even more positive scenario for global tourism in 2024. Projections suggest an increase of 2% to 18% above 2019 levels in terms of international arrivals, signalling a potential period of accelerated growth and expansion for the tourism industry. These optimistic estimates underscore the pent-up demand for travel and the strong consumer interest in exploring new destinations and experiences post-pandemic.

Revenue Rise

In tandem with the projected increase in international arrivals, tourism revenue is also expected to rise significantly in 2024. Projections indicate that tourism revenue could reach a staggering US$9.4 billion, signalling a strong year for the industry’s economic contribution. This resurgence in tourism revenue bodes well for destination economies, businesses, and stakeholders reliant on tourism income, providing a much-needed boost to economic recovery efforts.

Factors Contributing to Positive Outlook

Several factors contribute to the optimistic outlook for global tourism in 2024, including:

Pent-up Demand

Travellers around the world have expressed a strong desire to travel after pandemic restrictions eased, leading to a surge in travel bookings and reservations. The pent-up demand for travel reflects a longing for exploration, adventure, and connection, driving the resurgence in tourism activity worldwide.

Economic Improvement

A more stable global economy creates a more favourable environment for tourism spending, as consumers feel more confident in their ability to invest in leisure and travel experiences. Improvements in economic indicators, such as employment levels, disposable income, and consumer sentiment, contribute to the positive momentum for global tourism in 2024.

Shifting Priorities

A growing focus on experiences over material possessions has emerged as a significant trend in consumer behaviour, fueling interest in travel and exploration. As individuals prioritise meaningful experiences and cultural immersion, the demand for travel experiences that offer authenticity, authenticity, and connection is expected to drive tourism growth in 2024 and beyond.

Possible Challenges

While the outlook for global tourism in 2024 appears promising, several challenges and uncertainties loom on the horizon, including:

Geopolitical Tensions

Ongoing conflicts or political instability in certain regions could disrupt travel plans and deter tourists from visiting affected destinations. Geopolitical tensions pose a risk to global tourism recovery efforts, highlighting the need for effective diplomacy and conflict resolution to ensure a conducive environment for travel.

Economic Uncertainties

Global economic fluctuations, such as currency fluctuations, inflationary pressures, and trade disruptions, could impact consumer spending on travel and leisure activities. Economic uncertainties may dampen consumer confidence and discretionary spending, posing challenges to the sustained growth of the tourism industry in 2024.

New Pandemic Variants

The emergence of new COVID-19 variants remains a significant concern for the tourism industry, as it could lead to renewed travel restrictions and disruptions. The uncertainty surrounding the trajectory of the pandemic and the effectiveness of containment measures underscores the need for vigilance and preparedness to mitigate the impact of future outbreaks on global tourism.

Sources: The above data was obtained from the following sources: UNWTO and Statista.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *