Highest in six years; Pakistanis spent $2.19bn on outbound tourism in 2023: UN report

Pakistanis spent $2.19 billion on international tourism in 2023, according to the UN Tourism’s World Tourism Barometer published earlier this week, with the amount at its highest level since 2017 when the expenditure stood at $2.2 billion.

Amidst an economic crisis and runway inflation, sinking rupee and depleted foreign exchange reserves, the country registered a 32% increase in yearly expenditure as the number stood at $1.47 billion in 2022. This was also the first year-on-year increase since 2017 as the expenditure had fallen consistently from 2017 to 2022.

It also fell to a measly $0.81 billion in 2020 during the pandemic.

In comparison, Pakistan logged a lowly $0.9 billion in international tourist receipts in 2023, as the US led the way with a whopping $176 billion followed by Spain with $92 billion, according to the report.

Still, the amount is the highest with the data only going back as far as 2010.

According to the United Nations’ tourism arm, these were followed by the United Kingdom ($74 billion), France ($69 billion) and Italy ($56 billion), with the UAE in sixth place with $52 billion recorded in total tourism receipts in 2023.

Following the above, destinations earning the most from international tourism in 2023 included Türkiye, Australia, Canada, Japan, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Macao (China), India and Mexico which completed the top 15 list of tourism earners.

Pakistan ranked 101st out of 119 in WEF’s Travel and Tourism Development Index

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 led the way as the most visited country, recording a whopping 100 million international tourist arrivals in 2023, followed by Spain (85mn), United States (66mn), Italy (57mn), Türkiye (55mn), Mexico (42mn) and United Kingdom with 37 million.

Germany (34.8mn), Greece (32.74mn) and Austria (30.9mn) finished off the top 10 most-visited countries by volume of tourists recorded.

Pakistan logged a total of 2.2 million arrivals.

Karachi ranked 918th out of 1,000 in Oxford Economics’ Global Cities Index

Making up the top ten spenders for 2023 were Canada, Italy, India, the Russian Federation and the Republic of Korea.

UN Tourism’s projection for 2024 pointed to a full recovery of international tourism with arrivals growing 2 per cent above 2019 levels, backed by strong demand, enhanced air connectivity and the continued recovery of China and other major Asian markets.

Pakistan’s tourism struggle

The country has for long struggled to attract international tourists with the influx of visitors dominated by expatriates coming from the UK, US, Canada, and other countries.

Pakistan was positioned a lowly 101st out of 119 countries in the Travel and Tourism Development Index published recently by the World Economic Forum (WEF).

While a slight improvement in rankings, the change is not nearly enough for the debt-ridden economy that has to rely on expensive borrowing to keep its foreign exchange reserves at a respectable position.


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