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As 2021 has drawn to a close, there are many tourism, hospitality and retail operators who hope that a new chapter will start in 2022. Yet, as the coronavirus continues to remain embedded into our day-to-day lives, is there a glimmer of hope on the horizon?

While we wished to bid adieu to Covid-19 in 2021, the virus rang in the new year with us. Despite continued distancing, protection measures and sanitization policies, it’s continuous spread has resulted in tourism and hospitality paying the consequences.

To deeply understand how the tourism landscape is evolving, The Data Appeal Company has drawn up an in-depth analysis of 2021 tourism and the forecasts for 2022 across Europe with a special focus on Italy. 

The data and insights are taken from D / AI Destinations, a territory intelligence platform utilized by the Italian National Tourism Board (ENIT) and many destinations across Europe.


International tourism: real recovery is a long way off

Throughout 2021, global tourism licked its wounds from a catastrophic 2020. In fact, international flows in 2021 closed near 2020 levels (around -75% compared to 2019). On a positive note, from an economic point of view, we’re slightly better off. Overall spending is around 40% of the pre-pandemic period. 

According to UNWTO’s November Travel Barometer, average spending per international traveler has increased, climbing from about $1,000 in 2019 to $1,300 in 2020 to over $1,500 in 2021. Nevertheless, the coronavirus crisis is not over yet. UNWTO estimates that there are more than 100 million tourism industry jobs at risk, especially in the areas most affected by restrictions.

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Italian tourism is on the rise

Despite ongoing restrictions, tourism across Italy in 2021 recorded a net increase compared to 2020. The border opening in May not only brought a steady flow of visitors in late-spring, but also into the summer season. Thanks to the immunization campaign and Green Pass initiatives, Italy once again peaked in domestic and international tourism. 

At no point in 2021 were pre-pandemic levels reached. However, from the second half of the year until now, the gap to 2019 has been steadily narrowing, making it particularly important to maintain this trend as we head into 2022.

However, it’s important to note that arrivals and hotel bookings vary greatly based on the type of destination. Cities of art and culture endured some difficulty, while lake and seaside destinations are in positive recovery and mountain towns faced serious seasonal highs and lows. 

Domestic vs. international tourism: who takes the lead?

Although the vast majority of travelers across Italy are domestic, the recovery of international tourism was evident in 2021, making up 65.2% of the total share this year compared to 58.8% in 2020. 

The top source markets include many central European countries, which, with exception of Germany, saw a sharp decrease last year. The Anglo-Saxon market remains very fragile, partly due to the dynamics surrounding pandemic management. Long-haul travel is still off the radar, with only the United States showing some timid signs of international travel.  

Another major trend we’ve witnessed is the decline of group travel. In fact, couples and families made up the vast majority of traveler types this year, likely due to their greater independence managing any unforeseen events or restrictions.

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2022 travel forecasts: positive signs for the Bel Paese

Forecasting travel trends for 2022 is no easy feat as visitor estimates are constantly undermined by the daily amount of new positive cases. To predict the direction of travel for the upcoming months, we rely on our unique data analysis and proprietary KPIs

  • The Sentiment Score of Italy, the visitor’s perception of the destination, is very good, even when compared against foreign competitors (Greece, France, Spain, etc.), but it’s a couple of percentage points lower than in the same period last year. Maximizing occupancy rates should never be at the expense of customer satisfaction. In fact, positive experiences are highly correlated to future tourist flows. It’s critical that fostering a positive experience, leading to a positive reputation and perception, should be a constant activity and primary objective of both destinations and the businesses operating within them.
  • Accomodation rates and prices on OTAs (, Expedia, etc.) for the upcoming six months show us a clear picture of how much operators are betting on 2022. Not only is the average price steadily rising over the next few months, but the overall price level is about 9% higher than in 2021. This is a clear sign that operators are optimistic about a full recovery in 2022.
  • The Travel Barometer, our proprietary index that tracks the short-term state of confidence and wellbeing of the tourism industry, is far higher than last year: 76.1 vs. 28.4.
  • Last-minute bookings are now common across travelers. There’s a significant difference between flight searches and bookings, due to the ever-changing restrictions imposed across countries. However, we are detecting positive signals from the U.S. and South American markets.

This is just a snapshot of the full analysis conducted. To uncover all the latest trends and future predictions, download the report below.

Download the full report

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