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UNWTO study shows slow but steady recovery for travel sector

The findings can be attributed to the easing of travel restrictions and an increase in consumer confidence

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

However, the data does shows relatively small upturn in May, with arrivals declining by 82% (versus pre-pandemic numbers in May 2019), after falling by 86% in April.

This slight upward trend emerged as some destinations started to ease restrictions and consumer confidence rose.

UNWTO secretary general Zurab Pololikashvili said: “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.” 

International tourism is slowly picking up, though recovery remains very fragile and uneven. Rising concerns over the Delta variant of the virus have led several countries to revert to more restrictive measures.

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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 reduced restrictions for vaccinated travellers and the use of digital tools such as the EU Digital Covid Certificate, are all contributing to the gradual normalisation of travel.

With international travel stalling, domestic travel is driving the recovery in many destinations, especially those with large domestic markets. Domestic air travel in China and Russia has already exceeded pre-crisis levels, with US performance also strengthening.

For more information, visit www.unwto.org.

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