It is hard to believe we are six months into 2023, and many of us, personally and professionally, are feeling the impacts of rising inflation and continuing global economic uncertainty. But there is also plenty of good news!
For example, recent international travel data from UNWTO (United Nations World Tourism Organization) shows an 80% return to pre-pandemic travel, with twice as many people travelling so far in 2023 compared to the same period in 2022. Here in Australia, the Australian Bureau of Statistics reports significant increases - for example, in March Australia recorded 1.3 million visitors, an increase of 970,000 from the same time last year and edging closer to 2019 pre-pandemic levels.
In the conference, events and meeting world, employees, employers, and event planners report renewed focus on in-person events, emphasising innovation, idea creation, networking and culture benefits compared to virtual or hybrid events. In addition, UFI (the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry) reported solid year-on-year growth and a 94% return to 2019 activity levels in 2023 (up from 80% in 2022). Globally we are once again connecting and prioritising face-to-face interactions to share ideas, grow and thrive. This doesn't mean online and virtual are going away. At Cliftons, we still firmly believe in taking full advantage of the technological gains of the last four years. Our ability to connect and meet virtually, learn and be assessed online, and offer live and on-demand hybrid or broadcast experiences grew exponentially, as did the quality and capacity to increase attendee engagement, interaction and enjoyment. We have the best of both worlds and can choose the best format depending on desired outcomes and budget.
Certainly, we are all hopeful of ending global inflation, and OECD data has shown an uplift in consumer confidence after it plummeted in mid-2022. Levels aren't back up to the heights of 2021 yet, but trends are positive. The OECD and IMF are reporting signs of improvement that expect to increase in 2024. IMF's World Economic Outlook for April 2023 predicts 3.0% growth for the global economy in 2024, with both organisations predicting growth to strengthen as the year progresses. Labour shortages are also expected to reduce as economies continue to stabilise.
These turbulent economic times mean that many organisations have been in ''survival mode'' for a few years, and organisations are now working out their new ''normal''. We are now seeing a trend for more leadership development investment to shape organisational culture positively, set new directions and give managers the skills to support teams better as we all navigate a post-pandemic world. Creating a strong leadership team is vital for ensuring a healthy organisational culture, which is more important than ever for retaining people in a tight labour market.
In our own good news, I'm delighted to announce two recent achievements for Cliftons. We were thrilled to place fourth in the AFR BOSS Best Places to Work in the Retail, Hospitality, Tourism and Entertainment Industries in April. Some of the reasons we were recognised were our commitments to flexibility, equality and well-being. Collectively, we're obsessed with creating remarkable experiences for our clients, and investing in our team with a range of people-friendly policies and processes is one of the ways we can deliver on this goal. There were over 700 entrants, so to be shortlisted and achieve this result is incredible and a testament to everyone in our team.
The other achievement is at the Meeting and Events Australia (MEA) NSW awards. Our flagship Margaret Street venue in Sydney was named winner in the NSW Event Venue - capacity less than 1000' category and a finalist in the National MEA Awards. These are incredible wins and recognises the flexibility of our Margaret Street venue.
As 2023 continues to race by, the Cliftons team is standing by to help you and your team with all your meeting, event and assessment needs. Over the past year, we've increased our range of services with new partnerships across team building, speaker management, travel and event management, exam services and more to make it easier to find everything you need in one place.
I look forward to hearing how Cliftons can support you, and thank you for your part in our ongoing success.