Middle East leads global tourism recovery

Middle East leads global tourism recovery

WTO reports world-leading 36% rise in international arrivals to the region in Q1 of 2024

International global tourism has made a “near-complete recovery from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic”, according to the UN World Tourism Organization’s latest World Tourism Barometer.

The report reveals international arrivals reached 97% of 2019 levels in the first quarter of 2024, with an estimated 285 million tourists travelling internationally.

The report cites the Middle East as showing the fastest growth in international arrivals globally, with figures during the quarter up 36% compared with pre-pandemic levels. 

According to the report, this “follows an extraordinary performance in 2023, when the Middle East became the first region to recover pre-pandemic numbers”, with arrivals up 22%.

Destinations in the region highlighted in the Barometer for recording notably high growth in international arrivals in Q1 2024 compared with Q1 2019 include Qatar (+177%) and Saudi Arabia (+98%). 

Looking at the rest of the world, the report states that Europe, the world’s largest destination region, exceeded pre-pandemic levels for the first time in the first three months of 2024, with international arrivals up 2% compared with Q1 2019.

European countries highlighted include Albania (+121% over 2019), Serbia (+43%), Bulgaria (+38%), Malta (+37%) and Norway (+34%).

UAE tops charts in MENA region for tourism development
Aviasales reports growth in travel from Central Asia to GCC
320,000 new hotel rooms expected in Saudi Arabia by 2030

Arrivals in Asia and the Pacific recovered to 82% of pre-pandemic levels in Q1 2024, after recovering to 65% in 2023. The report picked out the Maldives (+25%) and Fiji (+13%).

Meanwhile, Africa welcomed 5% more arrivals in the first quarter of 2024 than in Q1 2019, while the Americas almost reached pre-pandemic numbers (99%).

By the end of 2024, UN Tourism predicts “a full recovery of international tourism with arrivals growing 2% above 2019 levels”.

Zurab Pololikashvili, secretary-general of the World Tourism Organization, said: “The recovery of the sector is very welcome news for our economies and the livelihoods of millions. Yet it also recalls the need to ensure adequate tourism policies and destination management, aiming to advance sustainability and inclusion, while addressing the externalities and impact of the sector on resources and communities.”

For more information, visit




Share article

View Comments