The global tourism industry is on track to reach 65 per cent of pre-pandemic levels of international visitors by the end of this year as the sector, led by Europe, recovers from the worst crisis in its history.
The industry could bring in $1.2 trillion to $1.3 trillion in tourism revenue this year, a 60 per cent to 70 per cent increase over 2021, according to the latest data from the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO). This year's revenue forecast is 70 per cent to 80 per cent of the $1.8 trillion the global industry generated in 2019.
In the first nine months of 2022, an estimated 700 million tourists travelled internationally, more than double the number for the same period last year, the UN tourism body said.
This represents 63 per cent of 2019 levels, putting the sector on course to reach 65 per cent of its pre-pandemic levels by the end of this year.
"Results were boosted by strong pent-up demand, improved confidence levels and the lifting of restrictions in an increasing number of destinations," the report said.
International travel rebounded strongly between July and September, four months after the start of the Russia-Ukraine war, and after widespread easing of entry requirements for the first time since March 2020, which improved consumer confidence in long-haul travel.
An estimated 340 million international arrivals were recorded in the third quarter of 2022 alone, almost half of the 700 million people that travelled during the first nine months of the year, according to the UNWTO.
In the race to bring tourism-dependent economies back to pre-pandemic levels of international visitors, Europe is leading the way, according to the UN data.
Europe is driving the rebound in international tourism, welcoming 477 million international arrivals in the January-September period, or 68 per cent of the world's 700 million tourists. This is a recovery of 81 per cent of its tourist arrivals before the Covid-19 pandemic hit, the report said.
This was more than double the number of visitors to Europe in 2021, with the nine-month results boosted by strong intra-regional demand and travel from the US.
"Europe saw particularly robust performance in Q3, when arrivals reached almost 90 per cent of 2019 levels," the tourism body said.
Strong rebound in Middle East
After Europe on the list of fastest recovering regions of the world this year is the Middle East.
The Middle East region's international arrivals more than tripled year on year in the January to September period, climbing to 77 per cent of its pre-pandemic levels, the UNWTO said.
Africa and the Americas also recorded strong growth compared with 2021, reaching 63 per cent and 66 per cent of 2019 levels, respectively.
In Asia and the Pacific, international arrivals more than tripled in the first nine months of 2022, reflecting the opening of many destinations, including Japan at the end of September. But arrivals in Asia and the Pacific were still 83 per cent below 2019 levels.
China, meanwhile, a key source market for the region, remains largely closed because of its strict Covid policies.
Destinations reporting arrivals above pre-pandemic levels in the nine months through September include Albania, Ethiopia, Honduras, Andorra, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Colombia, El Salvador and Iceland, the UN body said.
In September, tourist arrivals surpassed pre-pandemic levels in the Middle East (3 per cent over 2019) and the Caribbean (1 per cent over 2019).
Markets reporting strong spending in the first six to nine months of 2022 were Germany, Belgium, Italy, the US, Qatar, India and Saudi Arabia.
Global travel outlook
The UN body warned, however, that the tough macroeconomic environment points to a softening in the pace of recovery in international travel.
The challenging economic conditions globally, including persistently high inflation and soaring energy prices, aggravated by the Russia-Ukraine war, could affect the pace of the travel industry's recovery in the fourth quarter of 2022 and into 2023, the UN body said.
The latest survey among the UNWTO panel of tourism experts shows a downgrade in confidence levels for the last four months of 2022, reflecting more "cautious optimism", it said.