UNWTO: international tourist arrivals worldwide more than doubled (+130%) in January 2022 compared to 2021

The World Tourism Organization reported that according to the latest available data, international tourist arrivals worldwide more than doubled (+130%) in January 2022 compared to 2021: the 18 million most registered visitors in the world in the first month of this year equals the total increase recorded over the whole of 2021.

Although these figures confirm the positive trend started last year, the trajectory of recovery in January was affected by the appearance of the omicron variant and, consequently, the reintroduction of travel restrictions in various destinations. After the 71% decline recorded in 2021, international arrivals in January 2022 remained 67% below pre-pandemic levels.

Europe and the Americas show the best behavior

All regions experienced a significant rebound in January 2022although it should be noted that this compares to the low levels recorded at the start of 2021. Europe (+199%) and the Americas (+97%) continue to show the best results, with international arrivals still at half of those at pre-pandemic levels.

The Middle East (+89%) and Africa (+51%) also saw an increase in January 2022 compared to 2021, but these regions saw a decline of 63% and 69%, respectively, compared to 2019. Although Asia, the United States and the Pacific recorded a 44% year-on-year increase, several destinations remained closed to non-essential travel, resulting in the largest drop in international arrivals since 2019 (-93%).

By sub-regions, the best results were presented in Western Europe, quadrupling the number of arrivals recorded in January 2022 compared to 2021 data, but with 58% less than in 2019. Both the Caribbean (-38%) and the Southern Mediterranean Europe (-41%) showed the fastest recovery rates from 2019 levels. Central America posted the best results compared to 2019: 27%), Bulgaria and Curaçao (-20% each), El Salvador (-19%), Serbia and the Maldives (-13% each), Dominican Republic (-11% ), Albania (-7%) and Andorra (-3%). Bosnia and Herzegovina (+2%) even exceeded pre-pandemic levels. Among the main destinations, Turkey and Mexico recorded declines of 16% and 24%, respectively, compared to 2019.

Recovery prospects

After the unprecedented drop in 2020 and 2021, international tourism is expected to continue its gradual recovery in 2022. As of March 24, 12 destinations had no COVID-19 restrictions and a growing number of destinations were easing or lifting travel restrictions, helping to release pent-up demand.

The the war in Ukraine poses new challenges to the global economic environment and could hamper the restoration of confidence in the world. US and Asian source markets, which have started to open up, could be particularly affected when it comes to traveling to Europe, as these markets are historically more risk averse.

The closure of Ukrainian and Russian airspace, as well as the ban imposed by many European countries on Russian airlines, affect internal travel on the continent. It is also causing the diversion of long-haul flights between Europe and East Asia, leading to longer flights and higher costs. Russia and Ukraine together accounted for 3% of global international tourism spending in 2020 and if the conflict continues, at least $14 billion in global tourism revenue could be lost. The importance of both markets is significant for neighboring countries, but also for European sun and beach destinations. The Russian market has also gained weight during the pandemic for long-distance trips such as the Maldives, Seychelles or Sri Lanka. As destinations, Russia and Ukraine accounted for 4% of all international arrivals to Europe, but only 1% of the continent’s international tourism receipts in 2020.

With information from Press release

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