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Global Tourism and Travel Trends 2023

Smiling Couple Touring Sagrada Familia Barcelona


Border restrictions around the world have continued to loosen and lift, giving people everywhere renewed opportunities to go abroad. This is a big factor behind the predicted 30% rise in global tourism1 that analysts at the Economist Intelligence Unit are expecting to see this year.

 Along with this influx comes changing tourist behaviors. Many are using travel as a way to make up for lost time during the pandemic. Tourists are increasingly interested in visiting exciting international locations, and they are deviating from their once-consistent travel patterns to get there. Tourists’ post-pandemic patterns are challenging previous industry norms across global travel, payments, and transit. Being aware of these trends can help merchants prepare for potential increases in customers.

Cross border travel is beginning to open up in North America

North America has seen a rise in travel. Easing restrictions have people traveling to, from, and throughout the continent even more.

Canada lifted their vaccination requirement for entry in October 2022, opening the door for more tourists in 2023. The United States is seeing travel increases both in and out of the country as people get more comfortable traveling abroad. In 2022, the Mexican Caribbean broke pre-pandemic 2019 records with over 19 million tourists visiting the area. This year, it is estimated that over 20.5 million tourists will be visiting, making it the biggest year on record for tourist arrivals2 in the history of the region.

Many travelers in the region spent their pandemic down-time exploring and adventuring domestically. If large retailers in North America continue to show interest in technology like zero-checkout, they have the potential to capture more tourist dollars3 from those who are still domestically focused. Tourists from this region are now also setting their sights on traveling abroad.

No matter where and when tourists want to go, the price of international airline tickets is climbing.4 This is partly due to inflation, but also partly due to the fact that demand is high now that travel restrictions have been reduced.

To avoid high costs and long stretches of driving, tourists in the U.S. and Canada may favor rail travel. Cross-border trains offer merchants who are located near station stops the chance to bring in tourists who may not have otherwise discovered their business. Convenience stores and restaurants in these areas will want to create seamless checkout experiences to speed up the transaction process for customers on the go. If tourists take advantage of the potential of rail travel, they could spend less time looking at maps and more time visiting small businesses.

Tourist Taking Picture of Wat Arun Temple in Bangkok

Reflecting on Europe’s first full year of travel

By early 2022, destinations across Europe began easing up on travel restrictions. Countries like Germany,5 Italy,6 and Denmark7 began to more broadly allow entry to vaccinated tourists as long as they had a negative PCR test within 72 hours of arrival.

Now, for the most part, there are no longer COVID-19 travel restrictions of any kind in those countries or the rest of Europe. The majority of people around the world are free to openly travel the continent. As a result, tourism arrivals in the region have reached nearly 80% of pre-pandemic levels.8

Popular destinations are gaining even more interest. In Spain, increased tourism is expected to continue and reach 89 million by 2027.9 Merchants in Barcelona will want to make sure new tourists are able to use their preferred payment method by offering acceptance of all card types. Displaying acceptance signage is also a helpful way to welcome tourists and their business—especially considering 74% of cardholders look for signage before paying.10 Merchants will also want to prepare for more off-season visitors. Fewer consumers are traveling at peak times to save money given rising costs.4 For example, London is already seeing a sharp year-round increase4 that could potentially outpace their 2019 tourism numbers.

Travelers who are still aiming for peak seasons but also want to avoid crowds will look to lesser-known European destinations. It is important for these locations to implement the right technologies to prepare for an expected increase in transactions. Enabling the latest mobile payment options is an easy way for smaller merchants to speed up the transaction process11 and increase customer satisfaction.

Global Tourism Trends Statistics 2023


The effects of China reentering the tourism pool

In January 2023, China lifted most of its travel restrictions for its citizens, opening the door for 17% of the world’s population to travel again for the first time in almost three years. A single day after those restriction lifts were announced, one of China’s biggest booking platforms saw abroad bookings jump 250%.12

Many in Asia are not traveling far from home. The numbers already show that this population will be defining what it looks like to travel within Asia this year. Three-fourths of travel agencies surveyed by Chinese trade firms said their clients’ top choice was Southeast Asia.12 With such an increase in travel, there is potential for an increase in fraud attempts as well.13 Merchants in APAC and Enterprises should consider implementing updated fraud tools in preparation for this influx.

Those who are not exploring the Asia-Pacific region are traveling to high-end shopping destinations to reenter the luxury goods pool. Milan, London, and Paris offer the elite shopping experiences that some Chinese tourists have been missing since the border closures. In these regions, complementary businesses, like fine dining establishments, will likely see a tangential increase in traffic and should also be considering how to adapt to both payment and cultural trends.

The absence of travelers from Asia Pacific has been felt across the tourism landscape. With their return, competition for their spend in travel corridors and amongst global merchants will be high. Tourists coming out of the region have been exploring domestically and getting comfortable with the different types of payment technology available to them. Offering them a familiar experience may help win their favor. Across the globe, most merchants are accepting at least four payment methods, and around half of those methods were added in the past 12 months.13 For those looking to increase sales in the luxury goods market, “buy now, pay later” (BNPL), a service now offered by 36% of merchants,13 can be a strategic approach to bringing younger buyers to the high-end market.11


Increases in in-person shopping and transit are fast-approaching across the globe

All of the increases that are being predicted regarding travel have impacts beyond the statistics themselves. Amid rising trip prices, the predicted total spend from all tourists globally in 2023 is more than $1.4 trillion.14 Lines of business that were challenged by reduced tourism numbers over the past three years—especially businesses that relied on Chinese tourism, pre-pandemic—can expect to see that revenue. Residents from China spent $130 billion alone while on trips abroad in 2019.12

This higher volume could also lead to an increase in tourist transit usage. In Europe specifically, locals and tourists may start to rely on the more affordable and more eco-friendly rail system. The Eurail’s extensive routes offer visitors a budget-friendly way to travel the continent while also giving locals easy access to top locations. However, the overcrowding being observed in Europe’s hub cities may affect the amount of traffic on the track.

Now is the time to prepare for every potential challenge the influx presents. As the digitalization of Travel and Hospitality services continues to rise during 2023,15 merchants have the opportunity to focus on customer experience. Having updated payment technology in place at key transit and transaction touchpoints creates the potential to enhance the experiences15 of service providers, merchants, and tourists alike. Extending business hours11 is also a way to give visitors more of an opportunity to spend.

Happy Tourists Exploring Old City


Final thoughts on travel behaviors in 2023

The post-pandemic world comes with previously unforeseen needs and behaviors, especially when it comes to tourism.

This is the first full year of far fewer global travel restrictions since 2019. Merchants who have stayed up to date on how technologies have been developed, and have in turn implemented them, will have an advantage. If you are ready to start preparing your business for an increase in traffic, click here to connect with Discover Global Network. You can access resources like free signage and do-it-yourself POS system tests to make sure you can give customers the payment experiences they look for.

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  1. “Tourism Outlook 2023.” Economist Intelligence Unit, November 30, 2022.

  2. Richardson, Jennifer. “Mexican Caribbean Preparing For The Biggest Year On Record For Tourist Arrivals.” Cancun Sun, February 5, 2023.

  3. Bantra, Andriana. Rep. The Retail Reveal: Navigating a New Travel Landscape. Boston, MA: Kantar, 2022.
  4. Bachelor, Blane. “Why Your Dream European Vacation Is Already Booked Solid.” CNN. Cable News Network, February 4, 2023.
  5. Germany, U.S. Mission. “Covid-19 Information.” U.S. Embassy & Consulates in Germany, January 3, 2022.

  6. Italy, U.S. Mission. “Covid-19 Information.” U.S. Embassy & Consulates in Italy, January 14, 2022. U.S. Embassy & Consulates in Italy. "

    COVID-19 Information."
  7. Denmark, U.S. Mission. “Covid-19 Information for Denmark.” U.S. Embassy & Consulate in the Kingdom of Denmark, January 14, 2022.

  8. “World Tourism Organization.” Tourism Set to Return to Pre-Pandemic Levels in Some Regions in 2023, January 17, 2023.

  9. “Tourism Flows in Spain.” Euromonitor. Accessed April 5, 2023.
  10. C+R Research Study of 1,479 Discover® Global Network cardholders, July 2022 commissioned by DFS Services LLC.
  11. “7 Consejos Para La Recuperación Del Comercio Minorista: Cómo Conseguir ...” Discover Global Network. Accessed March 21, 2023.

  12. Feng, Emily. “Tourist Sites around the World Are Preparing for a Surge in Chinese Tourists.” NPR. NPR, January 8, 2023.
  13. Rep. 2023 Global Ecommerce Payments And Fraud Report. Cybersource, 2023.
  14. “Top 100 City Destinations Index 2022.” Euromonitor. Accessed April 19, 2023.

  15. Rep. 2023: Reimagining a Brighter Future for Travel and Hospitality. Worldline, 2023.


The information provided herein is sponsored by Discover® Global Network. It is intended for informational purposes, and is not intended as a substitute for professional advice.