Tourism recovery gains momentum as restrictions ease and confidence returns

International tourism continued to recover from the COVID-19 crisis at a strong pace in January-March 2022. Destinations welcomed almost three times as many international tourist arrivals (overnight visitors) as in the same period of 2021, with Europe leading the rebound.

International arrivals increased 182% year-on-year in Q1 2022 to an estimated 117 million international arrivals compared to 41 million in Q1 2021. Of the extra 76 million international arrivals, about 47 million were recorded in March.

Despite the strong rebound experienced in Q1 2022, international tourism remained 61% below 2019 levels.

International arrivals improved from -66% in January 2022 (over 2019) to -60% in February and -56% in March, as more countries eased travel restrictions and Omicron-related disruptions decreased.

By region, Europe (+280%) welcomed almost four times as many international arrivals as in Q1 2021, while in the Americas (+117%) arrivals more than doubled. However, arrivals were still 43% and 46% below 2019 levels respectively.

The Middle East (+132%) and Africa (+96%) also saw strong growth in Q1 2022 over 2021, but remained 59% and 61% below 2019 respectively. Asia and the Pacific recorded 64% increase but stood at -93% compared to 2019.

By subregion, the Caribbean (-26%) and Southern and Mediterranean Europe (-27%) showed the fastest recovery towards 2019 levels, with international tourism recovering more than 70% of pre-crisis levels.

The ongoing recovery can also be seen in outbound tourism spending, with expenditure from France reaching 80% of pre-crisis levels in Q1 2021 and German spending grew to 65%.

The gradual recovery of international tourism is expected to continue throughout 2022, as more destinations ease or lift restrictions and pent-up demand is unleashed.

The latest UNWTO Confidence Index survey indicates that 81% of tourism professionals see better prospects for 2022 and that a higher number of experts (48%) now see a potential return of international arrivals to 2019 levels in 2023.

Based on the latest results, UNWTO revised its outlook for 2022, with international arrivals now expected to reach 55% to 70% of 2019 levels.

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The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations