Tourism is recovering, but not to pre-pandemic levels

Global tourism is coming back to life despite the headaches of Covid travel and the effects of war in Ukraine, but it has yet to regain its pre-pandemic health.

International tourist arrivals around the world have more than doubled, up 130% in January 2022 compared to the same period last year, according to the latest figures from the United Nations World Tourism Organization.

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Travelers are regaining confidence and Europe and the Americas are leading the upsurge.

Worldwide, there were 18 million additional visitors, according to the UNWTO, “the equivalent of the total increase recorded over the whole of 2021”.

In 2019, global tourism revenue reached $1.48 trillion. This figure dropped by nearly two-thirds due to the pandemic the following year.

As January confirms the recovery trend started in 2021, UNWTO highlighted how the Omicron Covid variant has recently curbed the upside. International arrivals in January 2022 were still 67% lower than they were before the pandemic.

Most regions have seen travelers return and rebound from low levels at the start of 2021, with Europe doing three times better and the Americas twice as well.

That’s still a far cry from pre-pandemic numbers, but Larry Cuculic, chief executive of hotel company Best Western, is optimistic.

“I traveled earlier this week and I can tell you that airports, international terminals in the United States are very congested and there is a demand or interest in traveling to Europe, because for several years we could not not do that,” he said. told AFP.

“We miss going to Paris, Rome and Berlin.” The Middle East is also booming, with arrivals up 89% from 2021, as is Africa, with numbers up 51% – but both of these regions are still a long way off their 2019 totals , according to the UNWTO.

Unsurprisingly, the number of travelers is decreasing in the Asia-Pacific region, where several destinations remain closed. In January, international tourist arrivals were down 93% from pre-pandemic levels.

Travel by Chinese tourists, the world’s biggest spenders before the pandemic, is also being hit hard by China’s zero-Covid policy.

According to travel analyst ForwardKeys, the second quarter of 2022 still looks “more promising for international travel around the world than the first quarter.”

The Caribbean and South America attract tourists in search of sea and sun in summer in the northern hemisphere. Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Aruba and Jamaica are among the top 20 destinations, surpassing even pre-pandemic levels.

In Europe, tourists are flocking to France, Spain, Portugal, Greece and Iceland, but not in the same proportions as before Covid.

But France is doing quite well. In February, international tourism revenues in the country “came closer to those of 2019”, according to the French Minister of Tourism, Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne.

At 2.7 billion euros ($2.8 billion), revenue was up 1.5 billion from a year ago and down 8% from 2019, he said. to journalists.

In 2019, before the pandemic, the tourism sector in France accounted for 7.4% of GDP and 9.5% of jobs.

According to Lemoyne, France is “very well positioned” as the “first travel destination in Europe for Americans, Belgians, Italians and Spaniards”.

The French, for their part, are “a European exception”, the minister said, pointing out that 60% plan to stay in their own country during the holidays.

“With a domestic base that will remain very strong and the return of international customers, this means we are heading into a summer season that can be very, very dynamic,” he said.

But Didier Arino, director of consultancy Protourisme, warned there could be trouble ahead.

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