International travel is still "largely on hold" according to new data from the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), despite a slight resurgence in May.
New UNWTO data reveals international tourist arrivals to the end of May 2021 were 85% down on the same period in 2019, and 65% down on 2020.
It said the emergence of new Covid-19 variants and the persistence of global travel restrictions were "weighing" on the recovery of international travel, although the UNWTO did acknowledge a rebound for domestic tourism "in many parts of the world" with domestic air seat capacity in China and Russia already exceeding pre-pandemic levels.
During the first five months of the year, destinations the world over recorded 147 million few international arrivals compared to the same period in 2020 and 460 million fewer than in 2019.
In April, arrivals declined by 86% compared with April 2019, although this fall was arrested – slightly – in May, with arrivals down 82% on May 2019.
"This slight upward trend emerged as some destinations started to ease restrictions and consumer confidence rose slightly," said the UNWTO.
Secretary general Zurab Pololikashvili said accelerating Covid-19 vaccination programmes worldwide, better coordination and communication on travel restrictions and new digital tools to improve mobility would be "critical" to rebuilding trust in travel and restarting tourism.
The Asia Pacific region recorded the largest decline in international arrivals in the first five months of the year, down 95% compared with the same period in 2019, followed by Europe (-85%).
The number of destinations with complete border closures fell to 63 in June, down from 69 in February. Of these, 33 were in Asia Pacific. There were just seven in Europe, the region currently with the fewest restrictions on travel.
The UNWTO said international tourism was "slowly picking up", albeit in a "fragile and uneven" manner with several countries reimposing restrictions owing to the spread of the delta variant of Covid-19.
"In addition, the volatility and lack of clear information on entry requirements could continue to weigh on the resumption of international travel during the Northern Hemisphere’s summer season," said the UNWTO.
"However, vaccination programmes around the world, together with softer restrictions for vaccinated travellers and the use of digital tools such as the EU Digital COVID Certificate, are all contributing to the gradual normalisation of travel."