February 24, 2023

The Caribbean, Central America and Mexico boosted Americas’ tourists return in 2022

The Americas enjoyed a strong recovery of their international arrivals in 2022 according to first date released by the UNWTO. With 142 million international arrivals, total arrivals reached 65% of pre-Covid numbers. The Caribbean, Central America and Mexico were the best performers.

While most of the Caribbean already reopened to travellers in 2021 with minimal restrictions, it was however the USA’s decision to reopen borders in November 2021 that gave the strongest signal to America’s tourism recovery. According to UNWTO first data for last year, total international arrivals to the Americas were only down by 35% compared to 2019, equivalent to 142 million of visitors. UNWTO points out that 8 countries in the Americas were among the 20 best performing destinations last year. And among these 8 American best performers, 5 of them were located in the Caribbean region.

The US Virgin Islands already surpassed by 27% its tourism performance of 2019. But also St Maarten Island, the Dominican Republic, Curaçao and Aruba were among the best performing destinations located in the Caribbean. While Aruba experienced a slight decline of 3% compared to 2019, all the other islands in the region recorded growth rates between 6% and 15% over 2019 results.

Central America was also one of the best performers in the region. Compared to 2019, total international arrivals were lower by only 21.3%. Honduras tourist arrivals grew up by 17% while El Salvador recorded a more modest growth of 7% of its tourist arrivals.

For the USA, recovery was not as quick as expected following the lifting of all restrictions in November 2021. According to first data from the US Travel Association, total overseas arrivals remained 29% below 2019 levels in December 2022, due to “strong headwinds” (i.e. inflation, a strong dollar, high energy prices including high air ticket prices as well as natural catastrophes). However, international arrivals from Europe bounced back stronger. Europe is the first incoming market source for the US and it was ‘only’ 22% below 2019 numbers by July 2022. In Canada, international overnight arrivals reached 61% of 2019 levels over the summer months of 2022. International tourist arrivals by air for Mexico stood by 8.4% over 2019 figures.

South America had a more sluggish recovery due to the late reopening of countries to international travellers. With 19.6 million international arrivals according to UNWTO, the volume of tourists was down by 44.7% compared to 2019. However, Colombia was an exception with arrivals above its pre-pandemic levels by 5%.

Photo: Downtown Manhattan Skyline seen © Paulus Hook

A good year for Mexico

Mexico’s Tourism Minister Miguel Torruco reported earlier in 2023 that from January to November 2022, 18.4 million international tourists arrived in Mexico by air. This represented a growth of 8.4% compared to 2019. Together, the USA, Canada and Colombia generated 13.9 million arrivals. Over 75% of all air arrivals were recorded at Cancun, Los Cabos and Mexico City international airports.

The Caribbean, Central America and Mexico boosted Americas' tourists return in 2022
© Emir Saldierna – Unsplash