ISLAMABAD: Pakis­tan was the ‘best performing destination’ in terms of tourism during the first nine months of 2023, according to the ‘World Tourism Barometer’ published by the World Tourism Organisation of the United Nations.

Pakistan made a remarkable 92 per cent recovery to pre-pandemic levels in 2023, as the country experienced a 115 per cent surge in foreign tourist arrivals compared to the previous year, signaling a robust comeback post-Covid.

With the recovery reaching 115pc and projections of international receipts reaching $1.3 billion by the end of the year, Pakistan stands as a beacon in tourism resurgence, showcasing its potential on the global stage, Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation Managing Director Aftab Rana said.

He attributed this success to the concerted efforts in tourism promotion. Pakistan actively participated in six major global events to project the tourism potential in the country.

A strategic online outreach, along with launching of the “Salam Pakistan” tourism brand in August 2023, contributed significantly to attracting a diverse range of visitors from across the globe.

Minister of State for Tourism Wasi Shah congratulated the PTDC team and industry partners for the achievement, expressing optimism for a stronger performance in 2024 despite existing challenges. Mr Rana spoke highly of the collaborative efforts of PTDC, provincial tourist departments and private sector operators, emphasising the role of global events in expanding international partnerships.

According to the WTO Tourism Barometer, other leading best performing destinations were Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Turkiye and Romania among countries from Europe, Asia-Pacific, Americas, Africa and the Middle East. Egypt and Serbia were at the bottom of the destination countries list.

Key findings of the barometer show international tourism recovered 87pc of pre-pandemic levels in January-September 2023.

An estimated 975 million tourists travelled internationally between January and September 2023, an increase of 38pc over the same months of 2022, though 13pc fewer than in 2019.

International tourism receipts could reach $1.4 trillion in 2023, about 93pc of the $1.5tr earned by destinations in 2019.

These results reflect the strong recovery of demand in 2023. By regions, the Middle East continued to lead the recovery by regions in relative terms, with arrivals 20pc above pre-pandemic levels in the first nine months of 2023. Europe, the world’s largest destination region, reached 94pc of pre-pandemic levels, supported by robust intra-regional demand.

Africa recovered 92pc of pre-crisis visitors during this nine-month period and the Americas 88pc. In Asia and the Pacific, arrivals climbed to 62pc of pre-pandemic levels.

By sub-regions, North Africa (+5pc), Central America (+4pc) and Southern Mediterranean Europe (+1pc) continued to exceed pre-pandemic levels in January-September 2023.

International arrivals are expected to reach 1.3bn overall in 2023, up 33pc over 2022 and almost 90pc of pre-pandemic levels, in line with UNWTO scenarios published in January.

Against this backdrop, international tourism is well on track to fully recover pre-pandemic levels in 2024 despite economic challenges and uncertainty derived from certain geopolitical tensions and conflicts, WTO says.

Published in Dawn, December 30th, 2023

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