The world’s tourism industry is seeing positive growth after more than two years of global lockdowns. Demonstrating the industry's and travellers' resilience and adaptations to new rules and regulations, 2022 saw the resumption of travel, which experts have opined will continue on a positive trajectory into 2023.
According to the United Nations World Travel Organization (UNWTO), between January to July 2022, international travel had reached almost 60% of pre-pandemic levels, with an estimated 474 million tourists making trips abroad. Of these, 65% of travellers had visited Europe, one of the first regions to begin lifting COVID-19 restrictions in the first quarter of 2022. UNWTO noted that travellers from the United States heavily boosted the incoming travel into Europe.
A travel survey conducted by GMO Research in the last quarter of 2022 included respondents from North America, Europe and Oceania. The top two destinations that respondents from North America (the United States and Canada) would like to visit are European destinations: Italy (10.5%) and the United Kingdom (9%).
These destinations are a draw for travellers as respondents feel they offer a blend of unique cultural experiences, gastronomic enjoyment, history and tourist attractions. The beaches and natural landscapes of many European countries are also attractive elements for travellers to make their travel plans to the continent. In addition to European countries, North American travellers have also expressed interest in visiting Australia and Japan, with each APAC destination making up 6.8% of the data.
Europeans and Australians polled in the study also shared their interest in visiting Asian countries, especially Japan. Before the start of the pandemic, the Japanese government had shared its initiatives to boost tourism, especially from the Western markets. In 2019, Japan saw a record-breaking tourism industry, with 31.8 million arrivals that year, contributing 4.8 trillion yen (approximately US$ 36.8 billion).
However, those efforts were hampered by COVID-19 lockdowns and are only resuming again in late 2022. The Japanese government has started promoting Japan as a destination for its Western target demographics, especially Americans and Europeans, by using Japanese government establishments in places like Los Angeles, London and Brazil to promote Japanese culture, traditions, science and technologies.
Japan has also moved towards digitisation in how it markets the country, disseminating information on tourism, history, culture and trends via social media platforms to connect with its Western world audience. The government has also opted for the incorporation of multilingual information to provide ease for travellers, especially when using its public transportation systems and other infrastructure.
Based on the statistics that GMO Research has cultivated in its travel survey, Japan's approach to enhancing its position as a must-visit travel destination for the Western market in Asia is effective. Japan has become the number one Asian destination for respondents surveyed in America (6.3%), Canada (7.2%), and the United Kingdom. (5.8%), France (9%) and Australia (9.9%). Japan also ranked first amongst GMO Research's Asian respondents in an earlier travel survey of its local Asian markets conducted in October 2022.
International travel across different regions is set to continue positive trends, especially in the months ahead. With the recent announcement that China is reopening its mainland borders, experts have suggested that these numbers will grow further and faster as the Chinese travel market looks towards Europe and other parts of Asia. Businesses in the travel industry across the world can look towards a positive 2023, albeit with more competition, and be ready to adapt their business models to meet new demands and trends.