Tourism continued to recover at a strong pace, as destinations across the world received nearly three times as many international arrivals in Q1 2022 as they did in the same period in 2021, with Europe leading the sector’s recovery.
According to the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, international tourism has seen a year-on-year increase of 182% from January to March 2022, with destinations across the world receiving around 117 million international arrivals compared to the previous year. with 41 million in the first quarter of 2021. Of the 76 million extra international arrivals in the first three months, around 47 million were registered in March, showing that the recovery is picking up pace.
However, Europe and the Americas are leading the recovery.
UNWTO data shows that during the first quarter of 2022, Europe received almost four times as many international arrivals (+280%) than in the first quarter of 2021, with results driven by strong intra-regional demand. In the Americas, arrivals more than doubled (+117%) in the same three months. But arrivals in Europe and the Americas were still 43% and 46% below 2019 levels, respectively.
The Middle East (+132%) and Africa (+96%) also saw strong growth in Q1 2022 compared to 2021, but arrivals remained 59% and 61% below 2019 levels, respectively. Asia and the Pacific saw a 64% increase from 2021, but again, levels were 93% below 2019 numbers as several destinations remained closed to non-essential travel.
By subregion, the Caribbean and Mediterranean Southern Europe continue to show the fastest recovery rates. In both, arrivals have recovered to nearly 75% of 2019 levels, with some destinations reaching or surpassing pre-pandemic levels.
With all the positive turns, destinations open faster.
While international tourism remains 61% below 2019 levels, the gradual recovery is expected to continue throughout 2022 as more destinations ease or eliminate travel restrictions and pent-up demand is unleashed. As of June 2, 2022, 45 destinations (of which 31 are in Europe) had no restrictions related to COVID-19. In Asia, an increasing number of destinations have begun to ease these restrictions.
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Despite these positive outlooks, a challenging economic environment, together with the Russian Federation’s military offensive in Ukraine, pose a negative risk to the ongoing recovery in international tourism. The Russian offensive in Ukraine appears to have had a limited direct impact on the overall results so far, although it is hampering travel in Eastern Europe. However, the conflict is having major economic repercussions across the world, exacerbating already high oil prices and general inflation and disrupting international supply chains, resulting in higher transport and accommodation costs for the tourism sector. .
UNWTO urges destinations to export revenues for faster recovery as spending increases.
The latest edition of the UNWTO Tourism Barometer also shows that US$1 billion was lost in export earnings from international tourism in 2021, adding to the US$1 billion lost in the first year of the pandemic. Total tourism export earnings (including revenue from passenger transport) reached an estimated US$713 billion in 2021, up 4% in real terms from 2020, but still 61% below 2019 levels. international tourism reached US$602 billion, also 4% higher in real terms than in 2020. Europe and the Middle East recorded the best results, with gains rising to around 50% of pre-pandemic levels in both regions.
However, the amount spent per trip is increasing – from an average of $1,000 in 2019 to $1,400 in 2021.
Furthermore, there is hope for a stronger-than-expected recovery ahead, as the latest OMT Confidence Index showed a sharp rise. For the first time since the start of the pandemic, the index has returned to 2019 levels, reflecting growing optimism among tourism experts around the world, based on strong pent-up demand, in particular intra-European travel and travel from the US to Europe. Europe.
According to the latest UNWTO Panel of Experts survey, the overwhelming majority of tourism professionals (83%) see better prospects for 2022 compared to 2021, provided the virus is contained and destinations continue to ease or lift restrictions. on a trip. However, the ongoing closure of some of the main outbound markets, mainly in Asia and the Pacific, as well as the uncertainty arising from the Russia-Ukraine conflict, could delay the effective recovery of international tourism.
A larger number of experts (48%) now see a potential return of international arrivals to 2019 levels in 2023 (from 32% in the January survey), while the percentage indicating this could happen in 2024 or later (44%) decreased compared to the January survey (64%). Meanwhile, as of late April, international air capacity in the Americas, Africa, Europe, the North Atlantic and the Middle East has reached or is close to 80% of pre-crisis levels and demand is keeping pace.
The UNWTO has revised its outlook for 2022 due to stronger-than-expected results in the first quarter of 2022, a significant increase in flight bookings and the outlook for the UNWTO Confidence Index. International tourist arrivals are now expected to reach 55% to 70% of 2019 levels by 2022, depending on various circumstances, including the rate at which destinations continue to lift travel restrictions, the evolution of the war in Ukraine, possible new coronavirus outbreaks and economic conditions, notably inflation and energy prices.
World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), is a specialized agency of the United Nations.