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International Tourism On Track to Reach 65% of 2019 Levels

December 7, 2022

International tourist numbers on track to reach 65% of 2019 levels after a strong 2022

Strong pent-up demand and the lifting of Covid restrictions in a number of destinations have boosted the tourism sector’s performance in the first nine months of 2022.

According to the latest World Tourism Barometer figures from UNWTO, the sector is well on track to reach 65% of 2019 levels by the end of the year.

Here are the main findings of the new data release.

Rising international traveller numbers

Between January and September 2022, 700 million tourists are estimated to have travelled internationally – this is 63% of 2019 levels, but also a 133% jump upward compared to the same period in 2021. Recovery picked up pace during the year, with almost 50% of the total arrivals recorded in the third quarter of 2022.

Europe leads the way

The performance varied across regions and destinations. Europe welcomed 68% of the world’s total travellers (477 million), doubling its 2021 numbers and reaching 81% of pre-pandemic levels.

In the Middle East, arrivals more than tripled (+225%), and the region recovered 77% of its pre-pandemic arrivals. Asia and the Pacific also recorded a similar performance, with a 230% rise in the number of international arrivals – which, however, remain 83% below 2019 levels. Arrivals in Africa and the Americas reached 63% and 66% respectively of 2019 levels.

Some subregions recovered a higher-than-average proportion of their pre-pandemic number of arrivals in 2022: Western Europe (88%), Southern Mediterranean Europe (86%), Caribbean and Central America (82%) and Northern Europe (81).

However, some destinations delivered even better results, reporting arrivals above pre-pandemic levels in the first nine months of 2022. These are: Albania, Ethiopia, Honduras, Andorra, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Colombia, El Salvador and Iceland.

Other indicators of recovery: receipts, spending, air seat capacity and hotel occupancy

Some destinations, including Serbia, Romania, Türkiye, Latvia, Portugal, Pakistan, Mexico, Morocco and France, reported increases in international tourism receipts in 2022. Outbound tourism spending is also rising, especially from France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, the US, Qatar, India and Saudi Arabia.

Air seat capacity on international routes reached 62% of 2019 levels in January – August  2022 – 78% in Europe and 76% in the Americas. Domestic capacity worldwide reached 86% of 2019 levels, 99% in the Middle East.

According to STR, hotel occupancy rates globally went from 43% in January to 66% in September 2022. The subregions with the highest occupancy rates in September 2022 were Southern Mediterranean Europe (79%), Western Europe (75%) and Oceania (70%).

Cautious optimism 

Despite the sector’s strong performance in 2022, the latest survey among the UNWTO Panel of Tourism Experts shows a downgrade of confidence for the last four months in 2022, as the current economic and geopolitical challenges could slow down recovery.

However, it is estimated that export revenues from tourism could reach USD 1.2 or 1.3 trillion in 2022 – 70-80% of 2019 revenue levels, and a 60-70% increase over 2021.