MADRID — The UNWTO says that the latest stats from its Confidence Index show a slow but definite uptick in travel confidence, however tourism experts point to the continued imposition of travel restrictions and the lack of coordination in travel and health protocols as the main obstacle to the sector’s rebound.
International tourist arrivals were down 83% in the first quarter of 2021 as widespread travel restrictions remained in place, according to the stats.
From January – March 2021 destinations around the world saw 180 million fewer international arrivals compared to the first quarter of 2020. Asia and the Pacific had the lowest levels of activity with a 94% drop in international arrivals over the three-month period. Europe recorded the second largest decline with -83%, followed by Africa (-81%), the Middle East (-78%) and the Americas (-71%).
This all follows on from the 73% fall in worldwide international tourist arrivals recorded in 2020, making it the worst year on record for the sector.
“There is significant pent-up demand and we see confidence slowly returning. Vaccinations will be key for recovery, but we must improve coordination and communication while making testing easier and more affordable if we want to see a rebound for the summer season in the northern hemisphere,” says UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili.
Meanwhile the latest survey of the UNWTO Panel of Tourism Experts shows prospects for the May-August period improving slightly, says Pololikashvili. Plus, the pace of the vaccination rollout in some key source markets as well as policies to restart tourism safely – in particular, the EU Digital Green Certificate – have boosted hopes for a rebound in some markets.
Three in five (60%) of the UNWTO’s tourism experts say they expect a rebound in international tourism only in 2022, up from 50% in the January 2021 survey.
The remaining 40% see a potential rebound in 2021. This is down slightly from the percentage in January.
Nearly half of the experts do not see a return to 2019 international tourism levels before 2024 or later, while the percentage of respondents indicating a return to pre-pandemic levels in 2023 has somewhat decreased (37%), when compared to the January survey.
The UNWTO World Tourism Barometer also shows the economic toll of the pandemic. International tourism receipts in 2020 declined by 64% in real terms (local currencies, constant prices), equivalent to a drop of over US$900 billion, cutting the overall worldwide exports value by over 4% in 2020. The total loss in export revenues from international tourism (including passenger transport) amounts to nearly US$1.1 trillion. Asia and the Pacific (-70% in real terms) and the Middle East (-69%) saw the largest drops in receipts.