Global tourism sees upturn in Q3 but recovery remains fragile: Report


After a weak first half of 2021, international tourism rebounded during the Northern Hemisphere summer season, boosting the third quarter of this year in particular, the performance of the European tourism industry, the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) reported on Monday. 

According to the report, international tourist arrivals – overnight visitors – increased by 58 percent in July-September 2021 compared to the same period in 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 in 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.

Globally, figures released by the UNWTO show that global international tourist arrivals fell 20 percent from January to September, a marked improvement from the 54 percent drop in the first six months of the year.

In southern Europe, the Mediterranean, the Caribbean and North America, the number of arrivals in the first nine months of this year exceeded the same period last year. Arrivals in Europe in the third quarter of this year even approached or exceeded pre-pandemic levels.

"Data for the third quarter of 2021 is encouraging. However, arrivals are still 76 percent below pre-pandemic levels and results across the different global regions remain uneven," said UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili. 

He said in light of the rising cases and the emergence of new variants, "We cannot let our guard down and need to continue our efforts to ensure equal access to vaccinations, coordinate travel procedures, make use of digital vaccination certificates to facilitate mobility and continue to support the sector."

According to the report, the growth in global travel demand is driven by increased confidence among travelers due to rapid progress in vaccination and relaxation of entry restrictions in many destinations. In Europe, the European Union (EU) Digital COVID Certificate has helped facilitate free movement within the EU, which has unleashed a lot of pent-up demand after months of travel restrictions.

The latest figures from the UNWTO predict that by 2021, international tourist arrivals will still be 70 to 75 percent below 2019 levels. Revenues from international tourism could reach $700-800 billion in 2021, a small improvement from 2020 but less than half the $1.7 trillion recorded in 2019. The economic contribution of tourism is estimated at $1.9 trillion in 2021, which is measured in tourism's direct gross domestic product, well below the pre-pandemic value of $3.5 trillion.

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