BEAUTY IN THE FRIDGE

Despite Uptick in May, International Travel Remains Largely on Hold

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(21 July 2021) UNWTO data shows that between January and May 2021, international tourist arrivals were 85% below 2019 levels and 65% down on 2020. Despite a small uptick in May, the emergence of COVID19 variants and the continued imposition of restrictions are weighing on the recovery of international travel.

The latest UNWTO data shows that over the first five months of 2021, destinations around the world recorded 147 million fewer international arrivals (overnight visitors) compared to the same period of 2020, or 460 million less than pre-pandemic year of 2019.

The data does however point to a relatively small upturn in May, with arrivals declining by 82% when compared to May 2019, after falling by 86% in April.

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“Accelerating the pace of vaccination worldwide, working on effective coordination and communication on ever changing travel restrictions while advancing digital tools to facilitate mobility will be critical to rebuild trust in travel and restart tourism,” said UNWTO Secretary-General, Zurab Pololikashvili.

By regions, Asia and the Pacific continued to suffer the largest decline with a 95% drop in international arrivals in the first five months of 2021 when compared to the same period in 2019. Europe (-85%) recorded the second largest decline in arrivals, followed by the Middle East (-83%) and Africa (-81%), whilst the Americas (-72%) saw a comparatively smaller decrease.

In June, the number of destinations with complete closure of borders decreased to 63, from 69 in February. Of those, 33 were in Asia and the Pacific, while just seven in Europe, the region with the fewest restrictions on travel currently in place.

By subregions, the Caribbean (-60%) recorded the best relative performance through May 2021. Growing travel from the United States has benefitted destinations in the Caribbean and Central America, as well as Mexico. Western Europe, Southern and Mediterranean Europe, South America and Central America saw slightly better results in May than in April.

Mixed Outlook for Remainder of 2021

Rising concerns over the Delta variant of COVID19 have led several countries to reimpose restrictive measures. In addition, the volatility and lack of clear information on entry requirements could continue to weigh on the resumption of international travel during the Northern Hemisphere’s summer season. However, vaccination programmes around the world, together with softer restrictions for vaccinated travellers and the use of digital tools such as the EU Digital COVID Certificate, are all contributing to the gradual normalization of travel.

In addition, domestic travel is driving the recovery in many destinations, especially those with large domestic markets. Domestic air seat capacity in China and Russia has already exceeded pre-crisis levels, while domestic travel in the United States is strengthening further.

56% of UNWTO tourism experts in Asia Pacific believe international tourism will return to pre-pandemic 2019 levels in 2024 or later.

See latest Travel Industry News, Video Interviews, Podcasts and other news regarding: UNWTO, Arrivals, RevPAR, Tourism.

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