According to the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, international tourism saw a strong rebound in the first five months of 2022, with almost 250 million international arrivals recorded. This compares to 77 million arrivals from January to May 2021 and means that the sector has recovered by almost half (46 percent) of pre-pandemic 2019 levels.
“The recovery of tourism has gathered pace in many parts of the world, weathering the challenges standing in its way,” said UNWTO secretary-general Zurab Pololikashvili.
Europe welcomed more than four times as many international arrivals in the first five months of 2021 (+350 percent), boosted by strong intra-regional demand and the removal of all travel restrictions in a growing number of countries. In the Americas, arrivals more than doubled (+112 percent).
The same pattern is seen across other regions. Strong growth in the Middle East (+157 percent) and Africa (+156 percent) remained 54 percent and 50 percent below 2019 levels respectively, while Asia and the Pacific witnessed almost double the number of arrivals (+94 percent), though figures were 90 percent below 2019, as some borders remained closed to non-essential travel.
International expenditure by tourists from France, Germany, Italy and the United States now stands at 70 percent to 85 percent of pre-pandemic levels, while spending among Indian, Saudi Arabian and Qatari tourists has already exceeded 2019 levels.
In terms of international tourism receipts, a growing number of countries, including the Republic of Moldova, Serbia, Seychelles, Romania, North Macedonia, Saint Lucia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, Pakistan, Sudan, Turkey, Bangladesh, El Salvador, Mexico, Croatia and Portugal, have reached pre-pandemic levels.
However, greater demand than expected has created significant operational and workforce challenges, while the war in Ukraine, rising inflation and interest rates, as well as fears of an economic slowdown continue to pose a risk to recovery.
The International Monetary Fund points to a global economic slowdown, from 6.1 percent in 2021 to 3.2 percent in 2022, and then to 2.9 percent in 2023. At the same time, UNWTO continues to work closely with the World Health Organization (WHO) to monitor the pandemic, as well as emerging public health emergencies and their potential impact on travel.
In Africa and the Middle East, arrivals could reach about 50 percent to 70 percent of pre-pandemic levels. In Asia and the Pacific, they are likely remain at 30 percent of 2019 levels at best due to stricter policies and restrictions.