UNWTO Tourism Barometer - Issue 5 - September 2021
• International tourist arrivals (overnight visitors) dropped by 40% in January-July 2021 compared to the same period of 2020. Yet, this was still 80% below the levels of pre-pandemic year 2019.
• This sharp decline represents a loss of some 677 million international arrivals compared to the same seven months of 2019, or 110 million compared to 2020.
• After a weak start of the year, international tourism saw a gradual improvement during the months of June and July 2021, especially in Europe.
• These results were underpinned by the reopening of many destinations to international travel, mostly in Europe and the Americas. The relaxation of travel restrictions for vaccinated travellers, coupled with progress made in the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines, contributed to lifting consumer confidence and gradually restoring safe mobility in Europe and other parts of the world. In contrast, most destinations in Asia remain closed to non-essential travel.
• Most destinations reporting data for June and July 2021 saw a moderate rebound in international tourist arrivals compared to the same months of 2020. Small islands in the Caribbean, Africa, and Asia and the Pacific, together with a few small European destinations recorded the best performance in June and July according to available data, with arrivals coming close to, or sometimes exceeding prepandemic levels.
• Among the destinations reporting data, Albania (- 2%), Saint-Maarten (-4%), Aruba (-9%), Dominican Republic (-13%), Antigua and Barbuda (-14%), Andorra (-16%), Curaçao (-22%), Montenegro (- 33%), Maldives (-36%) and Seychelles (-39%) were the best performing destinations in the period JuneJuly 2021, over the same two months of 2019.
• July (-67%) saw comparatively better performance than June (-77%), making it the best month so far since April 2020. An estimated 54 million tourists travelled across borders in July 2021, compared to 34 million in 2020, though well below the 164 million recorded in 2019.
• By regions, Europe and the Americas recorded the smallest decreases in international arrivals in June and July, supported by intraregional demand. Several large destinations contributed to these results, recovering in some cases up to 80% of 2019 levels in the month of July, including Mexico (-19%), Croatia (-22%), Turkey (-33%), Greece (-50%) and Spain (-55%).
• Asia and the Pacific continued to suffer the weakest results in the period January to July 2021, with a 95% drop in international arrivals compared to the same period in 2019. Only essential travel was recorded in many Asian destinations, as most countries remained closed to international travel. The Middle East (-82%) recorded the second largest decline in arrivals, followed by Europe and Africa (both -77%). The Americas (-68%) saw a comparatively smaller decrease.
• By sub-regions, the Caribbean (-52% over 2019) recorded the best relative performance in JanuaryJuly 2021. Growing travel from the United States has benefitted destinations in the Caribbean and Central America, as well as Mexico. The Caribbean (+11%) as well as Southern and Mediterranean Europe (+1%) were the only sub-regions to record growth in Jan-July 2021 compared to the same period in 2020.
• Most sub-regions saw comparatively better results in July than in June, with Southern and Mediterranean Europe, Central America and the Caribbean all posting decreases below 50% in July over 2019.
• Despite the relative improvement in performance over the low levels of 2020, international tourism remained overall well below 2019 results. This is reflected in the evaluation made by the UNWTO Panel of Experts in the September survey, showing mixed results for the period May-August 2021.
• Domestic travel continued to drive the recovery of tourism in several destinations, especially those with large domestic markets. In China and Russia, domestic air seat capacity already exceeded precrisis levels. However, the rebound in domestic travel in many markets has not compensated for the large drop in international tourism.
Modest improvement of international tourism receipts and expenditure in June and July
• Destinations continued to report weak international tourism receipts in the first seven months of 2021, though several countries did record a modest improvement in June and July, and some even surpassed the earnings of 2019. Among the larger destinations, Mexico earned roughly the same tourism receipts in June 2021 as in 2019, and in July posted a 3% increase over 2019.
• The same is true for outbound travel. Among the larger markets, France (-35%) and the United States (-49%) saw a significant improvement in July, though tourism spending was still well below 2019 levels. Other countries such as Portugal (-25%) and Ukraine (-35%) saw a significant improvement in July, though tourism spending was also below 2019 levels. Romania spent roughly the same amount on outbound tourism in July 2021 as in 2019.
UNWTO Tourism Barometer Issue 5 September 2021
Jim Hepple is an Assistant Professor at the University of Aruba and is Managing Director of Tourism Analytics.