International tourism regains its pulse after the pandemic
Fewer and fewer countries require proof of vaccination or negative covid test or mask for air travel. Specifically, some 62 countries (of which 39 are in Europe) around the world have removed covid-related restrictions. And the offer is becoming more and more similar to what it was before the pandemic: Malaysia, the United States, Los Cabos or Senegal can be read in the window of any travel agency. Tourism is taking off again, with America and Europe as the driving force and Asia at the tail end due to more restrictive travel policies, but with the fear of the economic storm that the war may bring in the background.
This is reflected in the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer for the first five months of 2022 in which almost half (46%) of the pre-pandemic levels have been recovered with a total of 250 million international arrivals. “Tourism recovery has accelerated in many parts of the world, overcoming the challenges standing in its way,” UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said in a statement this week.
For the year as a whole, the agency expects to recover between 55% and 70% of 2019 levels, depending on circumstances, especially “economic headwinds and geopolitical challenges that could affect the sector in the remainder of 2022 and beyond.” The International Monetary Fund points to a global economic slowdown from 6.1% in 2021 to 3.2% in 2022 and 2.9% in 2023.
Europe and the Americas are leading the recovery, with four times more international arrivals than in the first five months of 2021 (+350%) in the former, and twice as many (+112%) in the latter. Both regions still remain 36% and 40% below 2019 levels, respectively, but by year-end arrivals to Europe are expected to grow by 65%-80% and to the Americas by 63%-76%.
While some areas have already recovered 70% to 80% of their pre-pandemic levels, such as the Caribbean and Central America, followed by the southern Mediterranean, western and northern Europe. And some destinations even exceeded 2019 levels such as the U.S. Virgin Islands, St. Maarten, the Republic of Moldova, Albania, Honduras and Puerto Rico. According to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the overall reduction in international air capacity in 2022 will be limited to 20% to 25%.
International tourist spending by France, Germany, Italy and the United States is now between 70% and 85% of pre-pandemic levels, while in India, Saudi Arabia and Qatar it has already surpassed 2019 levels. In terms of international tourism receipts, a growing number of countries (Republic of Moldova, Serbia, Seychelles, Romania, North Macedonia, Saint Lucia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, Pakistan, Sudan, Turkey, Bangladesh, El Salvador, Mexico, Croatia and Portugal) have fully recovered their pre-pandemic levels.