Global tourism observes increase in Q3: UNWTO

Tourism witnesses boosting results in third quarter of the year, especially in Europe, the Caribbean and South Asia

According to the newest edition of the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, international tourist arrivals (overnight visitors) increased by 58 per cent in July-September 2021 as compared to the same period of 2020. However, they remained 64 per cent below 2019 levels. Europe recorded the best relative performance in the third quarter, with international arrivals 53 per cent down on the same three-month period of 2019. In August and September, arrivals were at -63 per cent compared to 2019, the best monthly results since the start of the pandemic.

Some islands in the Caribbean and South Asia, together with a few small destinations in Southern and Mediterranean Europe saw their best performance in Q3 2021 according to available data, with arrivals coming close to, or sometimes exceeding pre-pandemic levels. The uplift in demand was driven by increased traveller confidence amid rapid progress on vaccinations and the easing of entry restrictions in many destinations. In Europe, the EU Digital Covid Certificate has helped facilitate free movement within the European Union, releasing large-pent up demand after many months of restricted travel. Arrivals were only 8 per cent below the same period of 2020 yet still 69 per cent below 2019. The Americas recorded the strongest inbound results in January-September, with arrivals up one per cent compared to 2020 but still 65 per cent below 2019 levels. The Caribbean recorded the strongest results by subregion with arrivals up 55 per cent compared to the same period in 2020, though still 38 per cent below 2019.

Despite the improvement seen in the third quarter of the year, the pace of recovery remains uneven across the global regions. This is due to varying degrees of mobility restrictions, vaccination rates and traveller confidence. While Europe (-53 per cent) and the Americas (-60 per cent) enjoyed a relative improvement during the third quarter of 2021, arrivals in Asia and the Pacific were down 95 per cent compared to 2019 as many destinations remained closed to non-essential travel. Africa and the Middle East recorded 74 per cent and 81 per cent drops respectively in the third quarter of 2021 as compared to 2019. Among the larger destinations, Croatia (-19 per cent), Mexico (-20 per cent) and Turkey (-35 per cent) posted the best results in July-September 2021, according to information currently available.

Despite recent improvements, uneven vaccination rates around the world and new Covid-19 strains could impact the already slow and fragile recovery. The economic strain caused by the pandemic could also weigh on travel demand, aggravated by the recent spike in oil prices and disruption of supply chains. The safe resumption of international tourism will continue to largely depend on a coordinated response among countries in terms of travel restrictions, harmonised safety and hygiene protocols and effective communication to help restore consumer confidence, particularly at a moment where cases are surging in some regions.

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