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International Tourist Arrivals Down, Traveler Confidence Rising

The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) data found that while international tourist arrivals were down 83 percent in the first quarter of 2021, there are signs of an uptick in confidence.

The UNWTO Confidence Index revealed that between January and March of 2021, destinations worldwide welcomed 180 million fewer international arrivals compared to the first quarter of last year.


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The Asia and Pacific region saw the most significant international arrivals drop at 94 percent, while Europe finished down 83 percent, Africa down 81 percent, the Middle East down 78 percent and the Americas 71 percent.

The 73 percent overall drop in international tourist arrivals last year makes it the worst year on record for the sector, but widespread COVID-19 vaccinations and restrictions being lifted have people ready to travel again this summer.

“There is significant pent-up demand and we see confidence slowly returning,” UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said. “Vaccinations will be key for recovery, but we must improve coordination and communication while making testing easier and more affordable if we want to see a rebound for the summer season in the northern hemisphere.”

The survey of the UNWTO Panel of Tourism Experts found that 60 percent expect a rebound in international tourism only in 2022, up from 50 percent in the January 2021 survey. The remaining 40 percent predict a potential rebound in 2021, down slightly from the percentage in January.

Nearly half of the experts do not see a return to 2019 international tourism levels before 2024 or later, while the 37 percent of respondents predicting a return to pre-pandemic levels in 2023 has somewhat decreased.

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