Global tourism experienced a four per cent upturn in 2021 when compared to the prior year, with a total of 415 million international trips made.
However, international tourist arrivals (overnight visitors) were still 72 per cent below the pre-pandemic year of 2019, according to preliminary estimates by UNWTO.
This follows on from 2020, the worst year on record for tourism, when international arrivals decreased by 73 per cent.
The first 2022 issue of the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer indicates that rising rates of vaccination, combined with easing of travel restrictions due to increased cross-border coordination and protocols, have all helped release pent up demand.
International tourism rebounded moderately during the second half of 2021, with international arrivals down 62 per cent in both the third and fourth quarters compared to pre-pandemic levels.
According to limited data, international arrivals in December were 65 per cent below 2019 levels.
The full impact of the Omicron variant and surge in Covid-19 cases is yet to be seen, the UNWTO said.
The pace of recovery remains slow and uneven across world regions due to varying degrees of mobility restrictions, vaccination rates and traveller confidence.
Europe and the Americas recorded the strongest results in 2021 compared to 2020 (up by 19 and 17 per cent respectively), but still both 63 per cent below pre-pandemic levels.
By subregion, the Caribbean saw the best performance, 63 per cent above 2020, though 37 per cent below 2019.