This Region of the World Is Seeing the Largest Rebound in International Tourism

International travel has bounced back to 57 percent of pre-pandemic levels

Happy woman wearing a turban hat takes a selfie photo on her smartphone against the background of a Bur Dubai old town near Creek district
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It certainly feels like travel is back, given the long queues at the airport these days, but now we have the stats to prove it.

The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), a special agency of the United Nations, has released data on international tourism from January 2022 through July 2022, and things are looking up. Worldwide, international tourism has reached 57 percent of pre-pandemic levels during the first seven months of 2022. 

"The steady recovery reflects strong pent-up demand for international travel, especially in the months of June and July which are part of the Northern Hemisphere summer season. The easing or lifting of travel restrictions in an increasing number of countries also contributed to boost results," according to a press release issued by the UNWTO.

The largest rebound in early 2022 occurred in the Middle East, where international arrivals have reached 76 percent of pre-pandemic levels. That's followed by Europe, which is at 74 percent of pre-pandemic arrivals.

The Americas and Africa are at 65 and 60 percent of pre-pandemic levels for international arrivals, respectively. And Asia, whose countries have remained closed the longest, brings up the rear, remaining below 86 percent of 2019 international arrivals,

All five regions, however, have seen growth compared to 2021.

Overall, the missing piece of the recovery puzzle is likely Chinese travelers. According to Skift, Chinese travelers left their country 170 million times in 2020, largely visiting other countries in Asia, but also the United States and France.

Since March 2020, China's borders have largely been closed. Its citizens are forbidden from traveling abroad, while only a few international travelers can enter the country, typically on business travel.

But Asia is slowly reopening, for both inbound and outbound travelers. Japan, for instance, is finally removing all Covid-19 restrictions on inbound international travel on October 11. And Bloomberg reports that several major banks, including Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs, anticipate China to reopen in spring 2023.

Once that happens, the path should be open to full recovery. In a recent survey, 61 percent of travel experts polled by the UNWTO expect international tourism to reach pre-pandemic levels in 2024. That number, however, seems to be trending downward, given worldwide inflation and the ongoing war in Ukraine.

"Tourism continues to recover steadily, yet several challenges remain, from geopolitical to economic," UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said in a statement. "The sector is bringing back hope and opportunity for people everywhere. Now is also the time to rethink tourism, where it is going and how it impacts people and [the] planet."

Article Sources
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  1. UNWTO World Tourism Organization. "World Tourism Barometer." September 2022.

  2. UNWTO World Tourism Organization. "World Tourism Barometer." September 2022.

  3. Skift. "Chinese Outbound Travel Will Look Like This When It Eventually Returns." May 19, 2022.

  4. CNN. "Traveling to China During COVID-19: What You Need to Know Before You Go." September 21, 2022.

  5. Bloomberg. "Morgan Stanley Joins Chorus Expecting China to Open Spring 2023." September 27, 2022.

  6. UNWTO. "International Tourism Back To 60% Of Pre-Pandemic Levels In January-July 2022." Sept. 26, 2022.