June 4 2024  |  Industry News

China recovers position as top international tourism spender

By Hibah Noor

According to UN Tourism, Chinese expenditure on travel abroad reached US$196.5 billion in 2023

China has recovered its position as top spender on international tourism in 2023 as Asia and the Pacific consolidates its recovery from the impacts of the pandemic, according to the latest UN Tourism report.

In 2022, the list of top spenders was headed by the US. France, Spain and the US took the top spots for most-visited destinations.

Chinese expenditure on travel abroad reached US$196.5 billion in 2023, ahead of the US (US$150 billion), Germany (US$112 billion), the United Kingdom (US$110 billion) and France (US$49 billion). Making up the top ten spenders for 2023 are Canada, Italy, India, the Russian Federation and the Republic of Korea. India jumped to 8th place, from 14th in 2019, confirming the growing importance of the country as a source market, while Italy rose from 10th to 7th position.

France consolidated its position as the world’s most visited destination in 2023 with 100 million international tourist arrivals. Spain was second with 85 million, followed by the US (66 million), Italy (57 million) and Turkey, which closed the top five with 55 million international tourists.

Completing the top ten most visited destinations in 2023 are Mexico, the UK, Germany, Greece and Austria. Compared to before the pandemic, Italy, Turkey, Mexico, Germany and Austria all rose one position, while the UK rose from 10th to 7th and Greece from 13th to 9th.

On the side on international tourism receipts, the ranking is led by the US, earning US$176 billion in 2023, followed by Spain (US$92 billion), the UK (US$ 74 billion), France (US$ 69 billion) and Italy (US$ 56 billion). Destinations earning the most from international tourism in 2023 include the UAE, Turkey, Australia, Canada, Japan, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Macao (China), India and Mexico which complete the top 15 list of tourism earners.

Upward movements in the ranking among the top earners include the UK jumping to the 3rd position from 5th pre-pandemic, the UAE from 13th to 6th, Turkey from 12th to 7th, Canada from 15th to 9th, Saudi Arabia from 27th to 12th and Mexico from 17th to 15th. Croatia (from 32nd to 25th), Morocco (from 41st to 31st) and the Dominican Republic (43rd to 34th) also moved up in the Top 50 ranking by receipts in 2023, as did Qatar (from 51st to 37th) and Colombia (50th to 44th).

Looking ahead to a full recovery globally in 2024

As per the latest World Tourism Barometer, in 2023 international tourist arrivals recovered 89% of 2019 levels and 97% in Q1 2024. UN Tourism’s projection for 2024 points to a full recovery of international tourism with arrivals growing 2% above 2019 levels, backed by strong demand, enhanced air connectivity and the continued recovery of China and other major Asian markets.

Total export revenues from international tourism, including both receipts and passenger transport, reached an estimated US$1.7 trillion in 2023, about 96% of pre-pandemic levels in real terms. Tourism direct GDP recovered pre-pandemic levels in 2023, reaching an estimated US$3.3 trillion, equivalent to 3% of global GDP.

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