Global tourism sees upturn in 3rd quarter
After a weak of the first half of 2021, international tourism rebounded during the northern hemisphere summer season, boosting results in the third quarter of the year, especially in Europe, the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) said yesterday.
According to the newest edition of the World Tourism Barometer published by the U.N. specialized agency, international tourist arrivals (overnight visitors) increased by 58 percent in July-September compared to the same period of 2020.
However, they remained 64 percent below 2019 levels. Europe recorded the best relative performance in the third quarter, with international arrivals 53 percent down on the same three-month period of 2019.
In August and September, arrivals were at -63 percent compared to 2019, the best monthly results since the start of the pandemic.
Between January and September, worldwide international tourist arrivals stood at -20 percent compared to 2020, a clear improvement over the first six months of the year (-54 percent).
Nonetheless, overall arrivals are still 76 percent below pre-pandemic levels, with uneven performances among world regions. In some sub-regions – Southern and Mediterranean Europe, the Caribbean, North and Central America - arrivals actually rose above 2020 levels in the first nine months of 2021.
According to available data, some islands in the Caribbean and South Asia, together with a few small destinations in Southern and Mediterranean Europe, saw their best performance in the third quarter, with arrivals coming close to or sometimes exceeding pre-pandemic levels.
The uplift in demand was driven by increased traveler confidence amid rapid progress on vaccinations and the easing of entry restrictions in many destinations.
In Europe, the EU Digital COVID Certificate has helped facilitate free movement within the European Union, releasing large-pent-up demand after many months of restricted travel. Arrivals were only 8 percent below the same period of 2020 yet still 69 percent below 2019.
Among the larger destinations, Croatia (-19 percent), Mexico (-20 percent) and Turkey (-35 percent) posted the best results in July-September 2021, according to information currently available.
Despite the improvement seen in the third quarter of the year, the pace of recovery remains uneven across the global regions. This is due to varying degrees of mobility restrictions, vaccination rates and traveler confidence.
While Europe (-53 percent) and Americas (-60 percent) enjoyed a relative improvement during the third quarter of 2021, arrivals in Asia and the Pacific were down 95 percent compared to 2019 as many destinations remained closed to non-essential travel. Africa and the Middle East recorded 74 percent and 81 percent drops, respectively, in the third quarter of 2021 as compared to 2019.
Gradual improvement in receipts
Data on international tourism receipts show a similar improvement in the third quarter. Mexico recorded the same earnings as 2019, while Turkey (-20 percent), France (-27 percent) and Germany (-37 percent) posted comparatively smaller declines from earlier in the year.
In outbound travel, results were also moderately better, with France and Germany reporting -28 percent and -33 percent, respectively, in international tourism expenditure during the third quarter.
Despite recent improvements, uneven vaccination rates around the world and new COVID-19 strains could impact the already slow and fragile recovery. The economic strain caused by the pandemic could also weigh on travel demand, aggravated by the recent spike in oil prices and disruption of supply chains.
According to the latest UNWTO data, international tourist arrivals are expected to remain 70 percent to 75 percent below 2019 levels in 2021, a similar decline as in 2020.
The tourism economy would thus continue to be highly impacted. Tourism direct gross domestic product could lose another $2 trillion, the same as in 2020, while exports from tourism are estimated to stay at $700-800 million, significantly below the $1.7 trillion registered in 2019.
Turkey expects to generate $22 billion from tourism in 2021 by welcoming more than 28 million foreigners, Turkish Culture and Tourism Minister Mehmet Nuri Ersoy said last week.
The Turkish tourism industry’s income, which was $12.1 billion in 2020, reached $16.8 billion during the first nine months of this year, Ersoy added.