Tourism continues to recover at a robust pace, according to the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer. Globally, destinations welcomed almost three times as many international arrivals in the first quarter of 2022 compared with the same period in 2021. Europe led the sector’s rebound.
UNWTO data indicates international tourism increased 182% year-on-year from January to March 2022, with destinations worldwide welcoming an estimated 117 million international arrivals compared to 41 million in Q1 2021. Of the extra 76 million international arrivals for the first three months, about 47 million were recorded in March, showing that the recovery is gathering pace.
Europe and the Americas lead recovery
UNWTO data shows that during the first quarter of 2022, Europe welcomed almost four times as many international arrivals (+280%) as in Q1 of 2021, with results-driven by strong intra-regional demand. In the Americas, arrivals more than doubled (+117%) in the same three months. However, arrivals in Europe and the Americas were still 43% and 46% below 2019 levels, respectively.
The Middle East (+132%) and Africa (+96%) also saw strong growth in Q1 2022 compared to 2021, but arrivals remained 59% and 61% below 2019 levels, respectively. Asia and the Pacific recorded a 64% increase over 2021, but levels were 93% below 2019 numbers as several destinations remained closed to non-essential travel.
By subregion, the Caribbean and Southern Mediterranean Europe continue to show the fastest recovery rates. In both, arrivals recovered to nearly 75% of 2019 levels, with some destinations reaching or exceeding pre-pandemic levels.
Although international tourism remains 61% below 2019 levels, the gradual recovery is expected to continue throughout 2022, as more destinations ease or lift travel restrictions and pent-up demand is unleashed. As of 2 June, 45 destinations (of which 31 are in Europe) had no COVID-19 related restrictions. In Asia, many destinations have started to ease restrictions.
Despite these positive prospects, a challenging economic environment coupled with the military offensive of the Russian Federation in Ukraine poses a downside risk to the ongoing recovery of international tourism. The Russian offensive on Ukraine seems to have had a limited direct impact on overall results, although it disrupts travel in Eastern Europe. However, the conflict has major economic repercussions globally, exacerbating already high oil prices and general inflation and disrupting international supply chains, which results in higher transport and accommodation costs for the tourism sector.