The COVID-19 pandemic and the various lockdown restrictions that followed significantly hindered the travel and tourism industry. Tourism, an industry that strives on people traveling and being physically present in destinations, was greatly affected. Thankfully, tourism recovery has improved a lot in 2022.
In 2022, tourism is rapidly recovering from the pandemic shock. This year, there have been three times more international arrivals in travel destinations in the first quarter of 2022 than last year, 2021. Europe has been a leader in this resurgence.
The latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer showed a 182% year-on-year increase between January-March 2022. In the first quarter, Q1, of 2021, travel destinations saw 41 million international arrivals. In Q1 of 2022, 117 million international arrivals were recorded globally; 47 million were recorded in March alone.
Europe And The Americas Lead The Tourism Sector Recovery
Europe and America have recorded the best tourism recovery post-COVID-19 pandemic period.
According to UNWTO, Europe witnessed a +280% increase in international arrivals compared to Q1 2021. Arrivals also more than doubled (+117%) in the Americas in Q1 2021. Although this increase in arrivals is encouraging, it was still 43% and 46% below 2019 arrival levels, respectively.
The Middle East and Africa have also not been left out of this tourism bounce back. They both recorded a +132% and +96% increase in arrivals in Q1 of 2022. Asia is somewhat behind in its tourism sector recovery as several destinations remain closed to non-essential travellers. They recorded a 64% increase against 2021, which is still 93% below the numbers recorded in 2019.
The Caribbean and Southern Mediterranean Europe have shown the best recovery in subregions. With a 75% increase against 2019 levels, some destinations have outdone and met pre-COVID-9 levels.
Destinations Have Started Opening Up
Easing and lifting travel restrictions in affected countries will go a long way towards bringing tourism back to pre-pandemic levels. At the moment, international tourism is still 61% below 2019 levels.
By June 2, there were no COVID-19 restrictions in 45 travel destinations. Several destinations in Asia have also started relaxing restrictions.
One factor that threatens this tourism resurgence is the military operation between Russia and Ukraine. One such factor affecting travel is the high oil prices, inflation, and disruption of the international supply chains. This has directly led to increased transport and accommodation costs.
Export Revenues Recover With Spending Increase
Much revenue has been lost thanks to the effects of the pandemic.
According to the latest report by the UNWTO Tourism Barometer, in 2021, a total of $1 trillion in export revenue from international tourism was lost. When you factor in the $1 trillion lost during the pandemic –that’s a lot.
There was a 4% increase in total export revenue from tourism in 2021 against 2020. A total of $713 billion was recorded though it was still about 61% below the 2019 levels. International tourism receipts also rose to $602 billion, which is 4% more than in 2020.
Europe and the Middle East have been championing this recovery and earnings have risen to 50% of the pre-COVID-9levels in these regions.
Although, the amount spent on every trip has risen from $1,000 to $1,400 between 2019 and 2021. That may increase in 2022, a consequence of the Russia-Ukraine war.
Stronger Recovery Ahead
The newest UNWTO Confidence Index has shown a marked uptick. This is the first time this has happened since the pandemic. The current index is level with that of 2019. This comes as there has been optimism among tourism experts and an increase in destination demands worldwide.
The latest UNWTO Panel of Experts survey showed that 83% of tourism professionals foresee a better 2022 than 2021 for tourism. This prospect is believed to be certain as long as there is no repeat of the pandemic and travel restrictions continue to the eased in destinations. The ongoing closure of major outbound markets in Asia and the Pacific and the Russia-Ukraine conflict threaten to derail this prediction.
Some experts, however, believe it may be up to 2023 before we see a return of international arrivals to the 2019 level. This is scepticism, however, as no one knows for sure what tomorrow holds. The international air capacity across Africa, Europe, the Americas, North Atlantic and the Middle East rose to 80% of pre-COVID-9 levels, and the demand keeps increasing.
UNWTO has had to revise its tourism outlook for 2022 because of the unexpected results of Q1 2022. If nothing significant brings about any major global instability, in 2022, international tourist arrivals are expected to rise to between 55% and 70% of 2019 levels.
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