Despite a rather uncertain geopolitical and economic context, international tourism is consolidating its recovery day after day, as indicated by the latest World Tourism Organisation (WTO) World Tourism Barometer.
International tourism has thus experienced a strong rebound in the first five months of 2022, recording almost 250 million international arrivals. Over the same period in 2021, the number of international arrivals was around 77 million. A significant increase which attests to the good recovery of the tourist activity in the world. The sector has thus recovered almost half of its pre-pandemic levels in 2019.
Europe and America are leading this recovery, having recorded increases in the number of international arrivals of around 350% and 112% respectively. This is driven by strong intra-regional demand and the lifting of all travel restrictions in a large number of countries. However, the rebound observed is measured by the weakness of the 2021 results. Levels remain below 2019 levels.
A similar phenomenon is observed in the APAC, Middle East and Africa regions. International arrivals up between 94% and 157% but below 2019 levels. Nevertheless, some destinations exceeded 2019 levels, including the US Virgin Islands, St. Maarten, the Republic of Moldova, Albania, Honduras and Puerto Rico.
Tourism spending is also on the rise again, in line with the recovery in business. International spending by tourists from France, Germany, Italy and the US is now at 70-85% of pre-pandemic levels. Spending from some destinations is even exceeding 2019 levels such as India, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. A large number of destinations have also returned to pre-pandemic levels of international tourism receipts.
The current summer season is expected to consolidate these positive results, with an increasing number of destinations dropping pandemic-related restrictions. However, higher than expected demand has led to a number of operational and labour challenges, while the war in Ukraine, rising inflation and interest rates pose a threat to the recovery. According to the International Monetary Fund, the global economy is expected to slow from 6.1% in 2021 to 3.2% in 2022 and 2.9% in 2023.
According to the UNWTO's prospective scenarios published in May 2022, international arrivals should reach 55% to 70% of the levels prior to the health crisis in 2022. These results are subject to the evolution of the health situation, the geopolitical context but also to current inflation. These forecasts could also be affected by more recent challenges such as staff shortages, severe airport congestion and flight delays and cancellations.
Regional scenarios point to a stronger recovery in Europe and the Americas, while the Asia-Pacific region is expected to lag behind due to more restrictive travel policies. International tourist arrivals in Europe could reach 65% or 80% of 2019 levels. Figures of between 63% and 76% in the Americas, between 50% and 70% in Africa and the Middle East and only 30% for the APAC region.