The Middle East was the only region to surpass pre-pandemic levels of tourism in the first quarter of 2023, with international arrivals in Q1 2023 up 15% on 2019.

According to a new HSBC report, Europe had the second highest levels of tourism in the same period compared to pre-pandemic levels, reaching 90% of 2019 figures.

Globally, tourist arrivals were 20% below pre pandemic levels, 14% below in the Americas, 46% below in Asia Pacific and 12% below in Africa.

In terms of tourist spend or receipts, the latest available data from HSBC’s report on post-pandemic tourism shows that Europe reached around 85% of pre-pandemic levels in 2022; Africa, 75%; and the Middle East, around 70%. Asia Pacific lagged further behind at less than 30% of pre-pandemic levels.

Dubai Airport announced earlier this month that it had reached pre-pandemic traffic levels, with 41.6 million people using the airport in the first half of 2023.

At 5%, tourism contributes the highest percentage of GDP in the Middle East of all the regions, with Asia Pacific, Africa and Europe at around 4.5% and the Americas at 3%, the report said.

HSBC data showed that in 2019 North American and European countries were the most popular tourist destinations, by millions of tourist arrivals, with France at the top surpassing 90 million.

Turkïye saw more than 50 million arrivals during that year, the UAE saw more than 20 million and Saudi Arabia around 18 million according to the data.

(Reporting by Imogen Lillywhite; editing by Seban Scaria)