DestinationsGlobal tourism has been strongly rebounding this year, hitting 57% of pre-pandemic levels.

Success found in first seven months of international travel

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Europe and the Middle East came out the top regions driving the tourism recovery.
Europe and the Middle East came out the top regions driving the tourism recovery. Photo Credit: Adobe/Spectral-Design

The latest international travel statistics from the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) indicate that tourism is making a strong rebound so far in 2022. In fact, the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer reports that international travel reached 57% of pre-pandemic levels from January to July of this year.

Are People Traveling More in 2022?

According to the new Tourism Barometer report, international tourist arrivals almost tripled (up 172%) during the January to July period of 2022 (when an estimated 474 million tourists traveled internationally), compared to the same period in 2021 (which saw 175 million tourists traveling abroad). In June and July of this year alone, there were an estimated 207 million international arrivals, more than twice the number of arrivals seen during those same two months last year.

The UNWTO attributes this impressive recovery to pent-up demand for international travel along with the ongoing removal and/or easing of COVID-19 entry rules and restrictions.

Travel Recovery by Region

Top regions for recovery during this period include Europe (which reached 74% of 2019 levels) and the Middle East (which recovered by 76% compared to 2019). Strong intra-region demand and high numbers of U.S. travelers contributed to Europe’s growth, with the region welcoming almost three times as many international tourists as it did in the first seven months of 2021. In the Middle East, meanwhile, arrivals in July exceeded pre-pandemic levels by 3%, boosted by travel to Saudi Arabia.

The Americas also recorded strong growth (up 103% for the period), as did Africa, where arrivals grew by 171%. In the Asia/Pacific region, arrivals more than doubled in the first seven months of the year, rising 165%, though international tourism levels remain 86% below 2019 due to the continued closure of some countries’ borders to non-essential travel.

Remaining Challenges for the Travel Industry

The UNWTO notes that the sudden and intense return in travel demand has left the industry facing ongoing operational and workforce challenges. This was most obvious over the course of the summer in the air travel sector, where cancellations and delays were much higher than usual.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine and the current global economic situation are additional risk factors that could continue to hurt the travel industry’s recovery. Increasing interest rates, rising energy and food prices and the possibility of a recession all stand to slow the rebound rate of international tourism.

“Tourism continues to recover steadily, yet several challenges remain, from geopolitical to economic,” said Zurab Pololikashvili, secretary general for the UNWTO. “The sector is bringing back hope and opportunity for people everywhere. Now is also the time to rethink tourism, where it is going and how it impacts people and planet.”

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