According to the latest edition of the United Nations World Tourism Organization’s (UNWTO) World Tourism Barometer, an estimated 54 million tourists crossed international borders in July 2021, down 67 per cent from the same month in 2019, but the strongest results since April 2020. This compares to an estimated 34 million international arrivals recorded in July 2020, though well below the 164 million figure recorded in 2019.
Most destinations reporting data for June and July 2021 saw a moderate rebound in international arrivals compared to 2020. Nevertheless, 2021 continues to be a challenging year for global tourism, with international arrivals down 80 per cent between January and July compared to 2019. Asia and the Pacific continued to suffer the weakest results in the period January to July, with a 95-per-cent drop in international arrivals compared to 2019.
Exceeding pre-pandemic levels
The Middle East (-82 per cent) recorded the second-largest decline, followed by Europe and Africa (both down 77 per cent). The Americas (down 68 per cent) saw a comparatively smaller decrease, with the Caribbean showing the best performance among world subregions. Meanwhile, some small islands in the Caribbean, Africa, and Asia and the Pacific, together with a few small European destinations, recorded the best performance in June and July, with arrivals close to, or sometimes exceeding, pre-pandemic levels.
This improvement was underpinned by the reopening of many destinations to international travel, mostly in Europe and the Americas. The relaxation of travel restrictions for vaccinated travellers, coupled with progress made in the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines, contributed to lifting consumer confidence and gradually restoring safe mobility in Europe and other parts of the world. In contrast, most destinations in Asia remain closed to non-essential travel.
UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili commented: “There is clearly a strong demand for international tourism, and many destinations have started welcoming visitors back safely and responsibly. However, the true restart of tourism and the benefits it brings, remain on hold as inconsistent rules and regulations and uneven vaccination rates continue to affect confidence in travel.”