According to the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, international tourist arrivals almost tripled in January to July 2022 (+172%) compared to the same period of 2021. This means the sector recovered 57% of pre-pandemic levels. The steady recovery reflects strong pent-up demand for international travel as well as the easing or lifting of travel restrictions to date (86 countries had no Covid-19 related restrictions as of 19 September 2022).
An estimated 474 million tourists travelled 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 2022 combined, over twice the numbers seen in the same two months last year. These months represent 44% of the total arrivals recorded in the first seven months of 2022. Europe welcomed 309 million of these arrivals, accounting for 65% of the total.
Tourism continues to recover steadily, yet several challenges remain, from geopolitical to economic. The sector is bringing back hope and opportunity for people everywhere. Now is also the time to rethink tourism, where it is going and how it impacts people and planet.Zurab Pololikashvili, UNWTO Secretary-General
Europe and the Middle East showed the fastest recovery in January-July 2022, with arrivals reaching 74% and 76% of 2019 levels respectively. Europe welcomed almost three times as many international arrivals as in the first seven months of 2021 (+190%), with results boosted by strong intra-regional demand and travel from the United States. The Middle East saw international arrivals grow almost four times year-on-year in January-July 2022 (+287%).
The Americas (+103%) and Africa (+171%) also recorded strong growth in January-July 2022 compared to 2021, reaching 65% and 60% of 2019 levels respectively. Asia and the Pacific (+165%) saw arrivals more than double in the first seven months of 2022, though they remained 86% below 2019 levels, as some borders remained closed to non-essential travel.
Among destinations reporting data on international arrivals in the first five to seven months of 2022, those exceeding pre-pandemic levels were: the US Virgin Islands (+32%), Albania (+19%), Saint Maarten (+15%), Ethiopia and Honduras (both +13%), Andorra (+10%), Puerto Rico (+7%), United Arab Emirates and Dominican Republic (both +3%), San Marino and El Salvador (both +1%), Curaçao (0%), Serbia (+73%), Sudan (+64%), Romania (+43%), Albania (+32%), North Macedonia (+24%), Pakistan (+18%), Türkiye, Bangladesh and Latvia (all +12%), Mexico and Portugal (both +8%), Kenya (+5%) and Colombia (+2%).
Prospects for the remainder of the year are cautiously optimistic. Although above-average performance is expected, tourism experts rated the period September-December 2022 below the previous four months, showing a downgrade in confidence levels. Almost half of experts (47%) see positive prospects for the period September-December 2022, while 24% expect no particular change and 28% consider it could be worse. Experts also seem confident about 2023, as 65% see better tourism performance than in 2022.
The uncertain economic environment seems to have nonetheless reversed prospects for a return to pre-pandemic levels in the near term. Some 61% of experts now see a potential return of international arrivals to 2019 levels in 2024 or later while those indicating a return to pre-pandemic levels in 2023 has diminished (27%) compared to the May survey (48%). According to experts, the economic environment continues to be the main factor weighing on the recovery of international tourism. Rising inflation and the spike in oil prices results in higher transport and accommodation costs, while putting consumer purchasing power and savings under pressure.