UNWTO Barometer: Vaccines and reopening borders fuel recovery
With advances in inoculation levels and easing of travel restrictions, international tourism shows signs of recovery
According to the latest edition of the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, an estimated 54 million tourists crossed international borders in July 2021, 67% less than in the same month of 2019, but the strongest results since April 2020. This it compares with an estimated 34 million international tourists. arrivals recorded in July 2020, although well below the figure of 164 million recorded in 2019.
Moderate rebound for most destinations
Most destinations that reported data for June and July 2021 saw a moderate rebound in international arrivals compared to 2020. However, 2021 remains a challenging year for global tourism, with International arrivals fell 80% in January-July compared to 2019. Asia and the Pacific continued to suffer the weakest results in the January-July period, with a 95% drop in international arrivals compared to 2019. The Middle East (-82%) recorded the second largest decline, followed by Europe and Africa (both -77%).
The region of the Americas (-68%) experienced a comparatively less decline, and the Caribbean showed the best performance among the subregions of the world. Meanwhile, some small islands in the Caribbean, Africa and Asia and the Pacific, along with some small European destinations, posted the best results in June and July, with arrivals close to or sometimes higher than pre-pandemic levels.
The true restart of tourism and the benefits it brings remain on hold, as inconsistent rules and regulations and uneven vaccination rates continue to affect travel confidence.
Confidence in travel increases slowly
This improvement was supported by the reopening of many destinations to international travel, mainly in Europe and America. The relaxation of travel restrictions for vaccinated travelers, together with the progress made in the deployment of COVID-19 vaccines, contributed to raising consumer confidence and gradually restoring safe mobility in Europe and other parts of the world. In contrast, most destinations in Asia remain closed to non-essential travel.
UNWTO Secretary General Zurab Pololikashvili said: “It is clear that there is a strong demand for international tourism, and many destinations have started to welcome visitors safely and responsibly. However, the true restart of tourism and the benefits it brings remain on hold, as inconsistent rules and regulations and uneven vaccination rates continue to affect travel confidence. "
Although destinations continued to report weak international tourism revenue in the first seven months of 2021, several saw a modest improvement in June and July, with some even exceeding 2019 gains. Among the largest destinations, Mexico had roughly same tourism income in June 2021 as in 2019, and in July it registered an increase of 2% compared to 2019.
The same goes for round trips. Among the largest markets, France (-35%) and the United States (-49%) saw significant improvement in July, although tourism spending was still well below 2019 levels.
The outlook for September-December 2021 remains mixed, according to the latest survey by the UNWTO Panel of Experts, with 53% of respondents believing that the period will be worse than expected. Only 31% of experts hope to aim for better results towards the end of the year. The survey also shows that most tourism professionals continue to expect a rebound driven by unleashed pent-up demand for international travel in 2022, primarily during the second and third quarters.
Almost half of all experts (45%) continue to see international tourism return to 2019 levels in 2024 or later, while 43% point to a recovery in 2023. By region, the largest proportion of experts point to to a return to 2019 levels in 2024 or later are in Asia and the Pacific (58%). In Europe, half of those surveyed indicate that this could happen in 2023. The Middle East is the most optimistic, with a full recovery expected by 2022.