Global international tourist arrivals increased by 130 percent in the first month of the year over January 2021 to 18 million more visitors which is equal to the total increase for the whole of 2021, said the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) recently.
More specifically, according to its latest findings, the UNWTO is expecting international tourism to continue its recovery this year as more destinations fully lift Covid-19 restrictions.
However, UNWTO analysts are wary of Russia’s war on Ukraine which is posing new challenges affecting confidence in global travel and particularly intra-European travel.
Based on UNWTO data, all regions enjoyed a significant rebound in January 2022, with Europe still posting the strongest results up by 199 percent but still down by 53 percent over pre-Covid 2019 levels.
The Americas did well too up by 97 percent, with international arrivals still around half of pre-pandemic levels at -52 percent.
In terms of subregions, Western Europe posted best results, recording four times more arrivals in January 2022 than in the same month a year earlier, but still 58 percent down on 2019.
Showing the fastest rates of recovery towards pre-Covid 2019 levels were Southern and Mediterranean Europe down by 41 percent and the Caribbean down by 38 percent.
Indicatively, some small European and Central American destinations recorded the best results compared to 2019: Seychelles (-27 percent), Bulgaria and Curaçao (both -20 percent), El Salvador (-19 percent), Serbia and Maldives (both -13 percent), Dominican Republic (-11 percent), Albania (-7 percent) and Andorra (-3 percent) while Bosnia and Herzegovina saw a 2 percent increase over pre-pandemic levels. Meanwhile, Turkey and Mexico marked declines of 16 percent and 24 percent, respectively compared to 2019.
Concern about impact of Russia-Ukraine crisis on costs
Looking ahead, WTO analysts are expressing concern about the impact of the Russia-Ukraine crisis on costs – detours in long-haul flights between Europe and East Asia translates into longer flights and higher costs as well as on traveler numbers from the two countries. Indicatively, Russia and Ukraine accounted for a combined 3 percent of global spending on international tourism in 2020 and at least 14 billion dollars in global tourism receipts could be lost if the conflict is prolonged, said the WTO.
At the same time, as destinations, Russia and Ukraine accounted for 4 percent of all international arrivals in Europe but only 1 percent of Europe’s international tourism receipts in 2020.
The WTO goes on to add that the crisis is expected to add further pressure to already challenging economic conditions, undermining consumer confidence and raising investment uncertainty.
According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), global economic growth could be more than 1 percent lower in 2022 than previously projected.