UNWTO: International Travel at 60 Percent of Pre-Pandemic Levels

International tourist arrivals for the first half of 2022 (January through July) are up 172 percent over the same period in 2021, according to the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer.” What this means: The travel sector has recovered almost 60 percent of pre-pandemic levels, reflecting pent-up demand for international travel and the easing (or lifting) of travel restrictions.

Overall, an estimated 474 million tourists traveled internationally over the period, compared to the 175 million in the same months of 2021. An estimated 207 million international arrivals were recorded in June and July alone—over twice the numbers seen in the same two months last year. In fact, these months represent 44 percent of the total arrivals recorded in the first seven months of 2022.

Across the board, all regions—Europe, Asia and the Pacific, the Americas, Africa and the Middle East—are faring better in 2022 than they did in 2021. That said, Asia and the Pacific are still lagging in their recovery when compared to the other regions. In 2021, Asia and the Pacific was down 94 percent in terms of international tourist arrivals compared to 2019; this year, that number is improved but remains an 86 percent decrease (also compared to 2019).

Europe and the Middle East showed the fastest recovery in January-July 2022, with arrivals reaching 74 and 76 percent of 2019 levels, respectively. Europe welcomed almost three times as many international arrivals as in the first seven months of 2021, with results boosted by strong intra-regional demand and travel from the United States. The region saw particularly robust performance in June (down just 21 percent over 2019) and July (-16 percent), reflecting a busy summer period. Arrivals climbed to about 85 percent of 2019 levels in July. The lifting of travel restrictions in a large number of destinations also fueled these results (44 countries in Europe had no COVID-19 related restrictions as of 19 September 2022).

The Middle East saw international arrivals grow almost four times year-on-year in January-July 2022 (+287 percent). Arrivals exceeded pre-pandemic levels in July (+3 percent), boosted by the impressive results posted by Saudi Arabia (+121 percent) following the Hajj pilgrimage.

The Americas (+103 percent) and Africa (+171 percent) also recorded strong growth in January-July 2022 compared to 2021, reaching 65 and 60 percent of 2019 levels, respectively.

As far as sub-regions go, several reached 70 to 85 percent of their pre-pandemic arrivals in January-July 2022. Southern and Mediterranean Europe (-15 percent over 2019), the Caribbean (-18 percent) and Central America (-20 percent) showed the fastest recovery towards 2019 levels. Western Europe (-26 percent) and Northern Europe (-27 percent) also posted strong results. In July, arrivals came close to pre-pandemic levels in the Caribbean (-5 percent), Southern and Mediterranean Europe (-6 percent) and Central America (-8 percent). Many countries in these regions, in fact, posted numbers exceeding pre-pandemic levels.

As for when a given country will achieve the same level of tourism as 2019, 4 percent of UNWTO member countries have already done so, 26 percent expect to be at these levels by the end of 2022, and 35 percent each expect to reach pre-pandemic levels by 2023 or 2024.

Source: UNWTO

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