After two years of restrictions, tourists seem determined to resume travel in 2022, allowing the sector to reach 65% of its pre-pandemic level by the end of the year.
Between January and September 2022, 700 million tourists travelled internationally, more than double the figure for the same period in 2021. This is equivalent to 63% of 2019 levels and puts the sector on track to reach 65% of its pre-pandemic levels this year, according to UNWTO scenarios.
The latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer shows that 340 million international arrivals were recorded in the third quarter of 2022 alone, almost 50% of the nine-month total. These promising results are notably the result of the revenge travel phenomenon as well as the lifting of restrictions in a growing number of destinations.
Europe continues to lead the rebound in international tourism, with 477 million international arrivals between January and September 2022, or 68% of the global total, reaching 81% of pre-pandemic levels. This figure is more than double that of 2021. The Old Continent performed particularly strongly in the third quarter, where arrivals reached almost 90% of 2019 levels.
The Middle East similarly saw international arrivals more than triple year-on-year from January to September 2022, rising to 77% of pre-pandemic levels. Africa and the Americas also saw strong growth compared to 2021, reaching 63% and 66% of 2019 levels respectively. International arrivals have also more than tripled in Asia-Pacific, but remain 83% below 2019 levels. This is due to China remaining closed, despite being a key market for the region.
At the same time, some destinations have seen notable increases in international tourism receipts in the first seven to nine months of 2022, including France, Serbia, Romania, Turkey, Latvia, Portugal, Pakistan, Mexico and Morocco. Recovery is also seen in outbound tourism spending by major outbound markets, with good results from France, where spending reached -8% in the year to September compared to 2019.
Nevertheless, the current economic and geopolitical context could have a significant impact on the recovery of international tourism, slowing it down in particular during the fourth quarter and in 2023. Optimism is now more cautious, with confidence levels falling in the last four months of the year. Despite the plausible slowdown in the pace of recovery, tourism export earnings could reach $1.2-1.3 trillion in 2022, an increase of 60-70% over 2021.