Tourists go for a gondola ride over the 16th century stone arch Rialto Bridge on the Grand Canal in Venice. (AFP photo)
MADRID: World tourism soared in July, thanks to vaccine launches and fewer travel restrictions, but the number of travelers is still well below pre-pandemic levels, the UN tourism body said on Monday.
Some 54 million tourists crossed international borders in July, the highest number since April 2020, in the first months of the coronavirus crisis, the World Tourism Organization said in a statement.
That’s a 58 percent increase from the level recorded in July 2020, but it was still a 67 percent drop from the 164 million recorded in July 2019.
“This improvement was based on the reopening of many destinations to international travel, mainly in Europe and the Americas … along with the progress made in the deployment of Covid-19 vaccines”, which contributed to “gradually restore mobility safe in Europe and other parts of the world, “he said.
“However, 2021 remains a challenging year for global tourism, with international arrivals down 80 percent in January-July compared to 2019,” the Madrid-based organization said.
In the first seven months of the year, Asia and the Pacific continued to record the steepest declines, with a 95 percent drop in international arrivals, followed by the Middle East, where numbers fell 82 percent, Europe and Africa, which recorded a fall. of 77 percent, and the Americas that suffered a drop of 68 percent.
Only a few small islands in the Caribbean, Africa, Asia and the Pacific, along with several small European destinations, recovered and recorded arrivals close to or even above pre-pandemic levels.
Spain, which before the pandemic was the second most popular tourist destination in the world, said on Monday that it received 15 million tourists in the first eight months of the year, a decrease of 4.2 percent from the same period of the year. last, said the National Institute of Statistics.
The data cast doubt on the goal set by the Spanish government of attracting some 45 million foreign visitors this year, about half the number in 2019.
“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 travel confidence,” UNWTO Director Zurab Pololikashvili said in the statement. .
The UN body said it expected to see a “rebound” in 2022, although global tourism is not expected to reach pre-pandemic levels until 2023 or 2024.