MADRID: Between January and September, 700 million tourists traveled internationally, double (+133%) compared to the same period in 2021. That’s 63 percent of the 2019 level, and the industry is on track to reach 65 percent. According to UNWTO scenarios, this year has reached pre-pandemic levels. Results were boosted by strong demand, improved confidence levels and the lifting of restrictions on a growing number of destinations.
Highlighting the speed with which the sector has emerged from the worst crisis in its history, the latest Global Tourism Barometer from the UNWTO shows that monthly arrivals in January 2022 were 64% below 2019 levels, while by September – reached 27%. In the third quarter of 2022 alone, 340 million international arrivals were estimated, accounting for nearly 50 percent of the nine-month total.
Europe continues to lead the recovery in international tourism. The region saw 477 million international arrivals between January and September 2022 (68% of the world’s total), up from 81% of pre-pandemic levels. This is twice as much as in 2021 (+126%), driven by strong demand in the region and increased tourism from the US. Europe saw an excellent performance in Q3 2019 when arrivals reached almost 90%.
Meanwhile, the international population in the Middle East tripled (+225%) from January to September 2022, reaching 77% of pre-pandemic levels.. Africa (+166%) and the Americas (+106%) showed a strong growth compared to 2021 and reached 63% and 66% from 2019. Asia Pacific (+230%) tripled in the first nine months of 2022, reflecting the opening of many destinations including Japan in late September. However, arrivals in Asia and the Pacific remained 83% below 2019 levels. China, the region’s main market, remains closed.
Several sub-regions reached 80%-90% of pre-pandemic arrivals in January-September 2022. Western Europe (88%) and southern Mediterranean Europe (86%) showed the fastest recovery to 2019 levels. The Caribbean and Central America (both 82%) and Northern Europe (81%) also scored highly. Places that reported above pre-pandemic levels in the nine months to September included Albania, Ethiopia, Honduras, Andorra, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Colombia, El Salvador and Iceland.
September arrivals exceeded pre-pandemic levels in the Middle East (+3% from 2019) and the Caribbean (+1%), followed by Central America (-7%), Northern Europe (-9%) and Southern and Mediterranean Europe (-10%).
At the same time, the international tourism revenue of some destinations such as Serbia, Romania, Turkey, Latvia, Portugal, Pakistan, Mexico, Morocco and France has increased significantly in the first 7-9 months of 2022. Compared to 2019, spending in France reached -8% in the year to September, a strong result, reflecting a recovery in outbound travel spending from major home markets. Other markets that reported high spending in the first six to nine months of 2022 include Germany, Belgium, Italy, the United States, Qatar, India and Saudi Arabia.
The robust tourism recovery is reflected in various industry indicators such as air capacity and hotel metrics, as noted in the UNWTO’s Tourism Recovery Monitoring Tool. In January-August, air seat capacity (measured in available seat kilometers, or ASK) for international flights reached 62% of 2019 levels, with Europe (78%) and the Americas (76%) showing the highest results. Global domestic capacity has increased to 86% of 2019 levels, with the Middle East (99%) almost back to pre-pandemic levels (IATA).
Meanwhile, according to STR, the global hotel occupancy rate reached 66% in September 2022, up from 43% in January. Europe led the way with 77% in September 2022 and 74% in July and August. The Americas (66%), the Middle East (63%), and Africa (61%) all had populations above 60% in September. By sub-region, Southern Mediterranean Europe (79%), Western Europe (75%) and Oceania (70%) had the highest population in September 2022.
Difficult economic conditions, including persistently high inflation and rising energy prices, exacerbated by the Ukraine crisis, could weigh on the pace of recovery in the fourth quarter and into 2023. The latest survey by the UNWTO’s Tourism Expert Panel shows that trust levels are declining. For the last four months of 2022, more cautious optimism is reflected. Despite mounting challenges dampening the pace of the recovery, tourism export earnings are expected to reach $1.2-1.3 trillion in 2022, up 60-70% from 2021 or 70-80% of the $1.8 trillion recorded in 2019. will grow.
Tariq Al Faham/ Hatem Mohamed