International tourist arrivals fell by 83% in the first quarter of 2021, primarily because travel restrictions persisted, but crucially that the UNWTO Confidence Index shows signs of a slow increase in travel confidence.
Between January and March 2021, destinations worldwide welcomed 180 million fewer international arrivals than in the first quarter of last year. Asia and the Pacific continued to suffer the lowest levels of activity with a 94% drop in international arrivals during the three-month period.
Europe recorded the second largest decline with -83%, followed by Africa (-81%), the Middle East (-78%) and the Americas (-71%). All this follows a 73% drop in international tourist arrivals in 2020, making it the worst year in the sector.
UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili points out that there is a significant backlog of demand and how they see confidence in travel slowly returning. “Vaccination will be key to recovery, but we need to improve coordination and communication, while making testing easier and more accessible if we want to see a return for the summer season in the northern hemisphere", States Pololikashvili.
UNWTO: 60% of tourism professionals expect the return of international tourism only in 2022
A recent study by the UNWTO panel of tourism experts shows that the outlook for May-August is improving slightly.
In addition, the pace of introducing vaccination in some key source markets, as well as policies to safely launch tourism, most notably the EU digital green certificate, have boosted hopes of returning to some of these markets.
Overall, 60% expect the return of international tourism only in 2022, compared to 50% in the January 2021 survey. The rest 40% see a potential recovery in 2021, although this is slightly less than the percentage in January.
Done half of the experts does not see a return to the level of international tourism from 2019 before 2024. or later, while the percentage of respondents indicating a return to pre-pandemic levels in 2023 has declined somewhat (37%) compared to the January survey.
Tourism experts point to the continued imposition of travel restrictions and a lack of coordination in travel and health protocols as a major obstacle to the sector's recovery.
COVID's impact on tourism reduces global exports by 4%
The UNWTO World Tourism Barometer also shows an economic tribute to the pandemic. Revenues from international tourism in 2020 are down by 64% in real terms (local currencies, constant prices), a drop of over $ 900 billion, reducing the total value of world exports by more than 4% in 2020. The total loss of export revenue from international tourism (including passenger transport) is nearly $ 1,1 trillion.