International tourism enjoyed signs of rebound in June and July as some destinations eased travel restrictions and the global vaccination rollout advanced in many parts of the world.
According to the latest edition of the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, an estimated 54 million tourists crossed international borders in July, down 67 per cent from the same month in 2019.
However, this is the strongest results since April 2020.
This compares to an estimated 34 million international arrivals recorded in July 2020, though well below the 164 million figure recorded in 2019.
Most destinations reporting data for June and July this year saw a moderate rebound in international arrivals compared to 2020.
Nevertheless, 2021 continues to be a challenging year for global tourism, with international arrivals down 80 per cent in January-July compared to 2019.
Asia and the Pacific continued to suffer the weakest results in the period January to July, with a 95 per cent drop in international arrivals compared to 2019.
The Middle East (down 82 per cent) recorded the second largest decline, followed by Europe and Africa (both down 77 per cent).
The Americas (down 68 per cent) saw a comparatively smaller decrease, with the Caribbean showing the best performance among world subregions.
Meanwhile, some 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, with arrivals close to, or sometimes exceeding pre-pandemic levels.
This improvement was 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.
UNWTO secretary general, Zurab Pololikashvili, said: “There is clearly a strong demand for international tourism, and many destinations have started welcoming visitors back safely and responsibly.
“However, the true restart of tourism and the benefits it brings, remain on hold as inconsistent rules and regulations and uneven vaccination rates continue to affect confidence in travel.”
Although destinations continued to report weak international tourism revenues in the first seven months of 2021, several 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 two per cent increase over 2019.
The same is true for outbound travel.
Among the larger markets, France (down 35 per cent) and the United States (down 49 per cent) saw a significant improvement in July, though tourism spending was still well below 2019 levels.