Despite recent improvements, the report warned that travel demand could be further impacted by “uneven levels of vaccinations around the world and new COVID-19 strains that have caused new travel restrictions in some countries.
Over the past few days, the emergence of the Omicron variant has led dozens of countries to reinstate entry restrictions or postpone easing of travel and COVID-19 testing rules, creating a lot of uncertainty for travelers during the holiday season around the world.
The surges in oil prices and the disruption of global supply chains have also had an impact. According to the latest UNWTO data, international tourist arrivals are expected to remain 70-75 percent below 2019 levels in 2021, the same decline as in 2020.
‘We cannot let our guard down’
While July-September this year recorded a 58 percent increase in tourist arrivals compared to the same period in 2020, this is 64 percent below the 2019 level, the UN found.
In August and September, arrivals were 63 percent lower than in 2019, the highest monthly result since the start coronavirus pandemic. Between January and September 2021, international tourist arrivals worldwide declined 20 percent from 2020, a clear improvement from a 54 percent drop in the first six months of the year.
“The data for the third quarter of 2021 are encouraging,” said UNWTO Secretary General Zurab Pololikashvili. “However, arrivals are still 76 percent below pre-pandemic levels, and results remain uneven across regions of the world.”
In light of the growing number of cases and new options, he added that “we cannot relax our vigilance and must continue our efforts to ensure equal access to vaccinations, coordinate travel procedures, use digital certificates of vaccination to facilitate mobility,” and continue to support the sector. “.
Despite the improvement seen in the third quarter of the year, the pace of recovery across regions of the world remains slow and uneven.
In some sub-regions, such as Southern and Mediterranean Europe, the Caribbean, North and Central America, arrivals actually exceeded 2020 levels in the first nine months of 2021.
However, arrivals to the Asia-Pacific region were down 95 percent from 2019 as many destinations remained closed to non-essential travel.
Africa and the Middle East saw declines of 74% and 81%, respectively, in the third quarter compared to 2019. Among the major destinations, Croatia, Mexico and Turkey showed the strongest gains between July and September.
The Caribbean performed the highest of any subregion identified by UNWTO, with a 55 per cent increase in arrivals since 2020.
During the summer season, the number of international tourists “increased” in the Northern Hemisphere thanks to increased confidence in travel, rapid vaccinations and easing travel restrictions in many countries.
In Europe, the EU’s digital Covid certificate has helped facilitate free movement within the European Union, the report said.