Most Frequently Visited Travel Destinations  - (Post)COVID-19 Statistics [2022]

Find out the latest statistics analyzing the pandemic's influence on travel. Check which of the world's countriest are best-performing in 2022.

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic made it impossible to travel between some countries, causing a drastic decline in arrivals worldwide.

In 2020, the number of international arrivals fell by 72.4%. Some countries like, for example, Hong Kong or Vanuatu saw even a 100% decrease in foreign visitors caused by the prolonged lockdowns.

In 2022, we can see that the tourism industry finally experiences a hope-giving revival. In Q1, nearly a 200% year-over-year increase has been noted. 

Almost half of the experts surveyed by the United Nations World Tourism Organization firmly believe that international tourism is to return to the pre-COVID levels in 2023.

In turn, 44% surveyed said it might happen in 2024 or in later years.

Let us have a look at more data to see how the coronavirus pandemic has influenced the tourism sector and how the world is slowly coming back to pre-COVID tourism. 

COVID-19 Travel Statistics to Know

Below, we have compiled the most interesting facts supported by data depicting how the COVID-19 pandemic has hit the travel industry:

  • Global international tourist arrivals saw a drop by 72.4% in 2020
  • Asia and the Pacific are two world regions with the most drastic decrease observed in international tourist arrivals - 90% (137 million) in May 2022 (in comparison to May 2019)
  • The U.S. recorded a 49% drop in international arrivals, which is 11.9 million fewer in 2022 (in comparison to 2019)
  • Business travel fell by 89% due to the COVID-19 pandemic
  • The pandemic led to 62 million job losses in the tourism sector in 2020 
  • Most vulnerable destination during the pandemic was Aruba, where tourism made up 88% of the country's total export 
  • In the first year of the pandemic (2020), 50% of the surveyed made more las-minute travel bookings

Top 10 Countries With the Most International Tourists [2019 vs 2021]

The following statistics show how the number of visitors decreased between 2019 and 2021 due to the travel restrictions implemented amid the COVID-19 pandemic:

1. Mexico -a decrease by 29%

  • 2019: 45 mln
  • 2021: 31.9 mln 

2. Spain - a decrease by 63%

  • 2019: 83.5 mln
  • 2021: 31.2 mln

3. Turkey - a decrease by 42%

  • 2019: 51.2 mln
  • 2021: 29.9 mln

4. Italy - a decrease by 58 %

  • 2019: 64.5 mln
  • 2021: 26.9 mln

5. United States - a decrease by 72 %

  • 2019: 79.4 mln
  • 2021: 22.1 mln

6. Greece - a decrease by 53 %

  • 2019: 31.3 mln
  • 2021: 14.7 mln 

7. Austria - a decrease by 44 %

  • 2019: 22.7 mln
  • 2021: 12.7 mln 

8. Germany - a decrease by 66 %

  • 2019: 35.2 mln
  • 2021: 11.7 mln 

9. Croatia - a decrease by 39 %

  • 2019: 17.4 mln
  • 2021: 10.6 mln

10. Hungary - a decrease by 53 %

  • 2019: 16.9 mln
  • 2021: 7.9 mln

All of the top 10 destinations indicated a significant decrease in the number of international tourists arriving between 2019 and 2021. 

The largest drop was recorded in the United States of America, where the number of visitors decreased by 72%. 

The U.S. closed its borders for international tourism and reopened to fully vaccinated travelers in November 2021. The US Government has been maintaining the ban on unvaccinated foreign visitors to date.  

The country with the lowest decrease in international arrivals was Mexico - a fall of 29%. Mexico was at the same time ranked first with regard to the highest number of visitors welcomed in 2021

It is not surprising since Mexico has had one of the loosest border restrictions worldwide during the COVID-19 pandemic, with anyone allowed to enter by air for tourism or business. 

The average percentage decrease in international arrivals in the said 10 destinations was estimated at 52%

Top 20 Best-Performing Travel Destinations in 2022

The recent air ticketing data available (covering the period between 1st Jan. - 18th Oct. 2022), has revealed that the Dominican Republic was the best-performing travel destination in 2022, with a 5% increase in foreign visitors when compared to 2019.

In fact, it is the only country that recorded any increase in incoming travelers. 

The full ranking includes twenty countries in total, with Turkey, Costa Rica, and Mexico, which all have shown neither an increase nor a decrease in the number of visitors.  

The other countries from the list ranked between 5th, and 20th places have all recorded lower or higher decreases. 

The Central American and Caribbean countries appeared to take first positions in the ranking. 

Their presence in top-ranking positions may be explained by the fact of the relatively strong US outbound market, and the more relaxed approach of tourism-dependent Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico countries, which introduced less stringent COVID-related restrictions for incoming travelers throughout the pandemic.  

Factors Influencing Travel in 2022

Tourism was influenced by many events that took place around the world in 2022. It is possible, then, to identify a few major trends that have shaped travel in 2022.  

We can distinguish the following ones:

  • recovery attempts: 2022 started with the new coronavirus variant detected, Omicron, which caused a bit of concern and led to the extension of restrictions; once the Omicron wave ceased, the coronavirus travel restrictions have been gradually lifted, and travel demand soared; global events such as the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, Formula One Grand Prix in various Gulf locations, and the World Expo in Dubai have helped in travel revival
  • staff shortage: due to the prolonged lockdown, many countries started to lack professionals and skilled workers; they decided then to open their borders to foreigners; which led to chaos in the airports before the summer season started
  • Russian invasion of Ukraine: after Russia attacked Ukraine, numerous countries banned direct flights; it, however, has not caused a decrease in long-distance travel to Europe to the extent that one might have been expected before the pandemic; a drop was noted in the case of the following countries:

         - Portugal - by 16%
         - Greece - by 12%
         - Iceland - by 14%

  • Zero COVID policy: in some cases, the recovery path has been much longer; the best example is China, which has only recently, since the beginning of the pandemic, allowed international tourists to cross its border

Tourism Revival - Forecast for 2023

In the report recently published by the EIU, we can see that global tourism arrivals are expected to rise by 30% in 2023, but will not exceed or equal pre-pandemic levels, at least until 2024.

There is one region that may be 'ahead of the curve,' which is the Middle East

Among the factors responsible for the recovery delay are the economic downturn, sanctions imposed on Russia as well as the Chinese Zero COVID strategy. 

Hospitality services, including restaurants, hotels, and airports, will continue to struggle with labor shortages, strikes over wage grievances, and too-high prices of food and energy.

Although facing these challenges, international airlines are believed to return to profitability, helped by continued travel demand.

In 2023, we will also probably see the impact of climate change on the tourism industry - floods, water shortages, high temperatures, etc. 

We may also experience the second-order consequences of the war in Ukraine, visible in rising prices of fuel and inflation hitting all industries, including tourism.


The global pandemic has dealt a heavy blow to the tourism industry. With closed borders and fewer tourists, many businesses have been forced to shut down. This has led to a loss of jobs and an overall decline in the economy. 

However, there is hope for recovery. Tourism has already begun to revive and is believed to continue to grow in 2023 and subsequent years. While it may take some time for things to return to pre-pandemic normality, the future of tourism looks quite promising.


Economist Intelligence Unit

Katarzyna Żyła
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