Despite the global economic and geopolitical challenges, international tourism continues to show indications of a strong and steady recovery from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
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, implying that the sector has recovered almost half (46 per cent) of pre-pandemic 2019 levels.
Remarking on this development, UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said, “The recovery of tourism has gathered pace in many parts of the world, weathering the challenges standing in its way.”
He, however, advises caution in view of the economic headwinds and geopolitical challenges which could impact the sector for the rest of year 2022 and beyond.
The UNWTO World Tourism Barometer reveals that Europe and Americas are presently leading in recovery. Europe welcomed more than four times as many international arrivals as in the first five months of 2021 (+350 per cent), boosted by strong intra-regional demand and the removal of all travel restrictions in a growing number of countries. The region saw particularly robust performance in April (+458 per cent), reflecting a busy Easter period.
In the Americas, arrivals doubled (+112 per cent). However, the strong rebound is measured against weak results in 2021 and arrivals remain overall 36 per cent and 40 per cent below 2019 levels in both regions, respectively.
The same pattern is seen across other regions. The strong growth in the Middle East (+157 per cent) and Africa (+156 per cent) remained 54 per cent and 50 per cent below 2019 levels respectively, and Asia and the Pacific almost doubled arrivals (+94 per cent), though numbers were 90 per cent below 2019, as some borders remained closed to non-essential travel. Here, the recent easing of restrictions can be seen in improved results for April and May.
Looking at sub-regions, several have recovered between 70 per cent and 80 per cent of their pre-pandemic levels, led by the Caribbean and Central America, followed by Southern Mediterranean, Western and Northern Europe. It is noteworthy that some destinations surpassed 2019 levels, including the US Virgin Islands, St. Maarten, the Republic of Moldova, Albania, Honduras and Puerto Rico.