According to the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, international tourism saw a 182% year-on-year increase from January to March 2022, with destinations worldwide welcoming an estimated 117 million international arrivals, compared with 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 of global travel is gathering pace.
UNWTO data shows that during the first quarter of 2022, Africa saw strong growth in Q1 2022 compared with 2021 (+96%), but arrivals still remained 61% below 2019 levels.
Although international tourism also 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 June 2, 45 destinations (of which 31 are in Europe) had no COVID-19-related regulations or entry restrictions in place.
Despite these positive prospects, a challenging economic environment coupled with the military offensive of the Russian Federation in Ukraine pose a risk to the ongoing recovery of international tourism, the UNWTO notes.
Tourism players optimistic for 2022
According to the latest UNWTO Panel of Experts survey, an overwhelming majority of tourism professionals (83%) see better prospects for 2022 compared with 2021, as long as the virus is contained and destinations continue to ease or lift travel restrictions. However, the ongoing closure of some major outbound markets, mostly in Asia and the Pacific, as well as the uncertainty derived from the Russia-Ukraine conflict, could delay the effective recovery of international tourism.
The Russian offensive on Ukraine seems to have had a limited direct impact on overall results so far, although it is disrupting travel in Eastern Europe. However, the conflict is having major economic repercussions globally, exacerbating high oil prices and overall inflation and disrupting international supply chains, which result in higher transport and accommodation costs for the tourism sector.