What are the prospects for 2022?

The years follow one another and look the same, more than one could have imagined. For the second year in a row, the UNWTO’s assessment of international arrivals for the sector has been disastrous. And as announced in November, 2021 will not have been any better than 2020.

Despite a very slight increase of 4% compared to 2020, the number of international tourist arrivals last year remained 72% lower than in 2019, the year before the start of the Covid pandemic. A “pace of recovery” over the past year that has remained “slow and uneven by one region of the world due to differences” in “mobility restrictions, (too) vaccination rates and (too) levels of traveler confidence” explains these findings, according to UNWTO. “These numbers follow what will be 2020, which will have been the worst year in tourism history, marked by a 73% drop in international arrivals,” UNWTO recalled, with revenue losses 11 times greater than in the 2009 crisis.

-94% for Asia Pacific in 2021

How have different regions of the world developed? In Europe and America, foreign visitor arrivals have recovered by 19% and 17% in a year, respectively, while in both cases they remained 63% below pre-pandemic levels, UNWTO observes.

By sub-region, the caribbean are the best performers (+63% compared to 2020 but 37% below 2019) and some destinations are approaching or even surpassing pre-pandemic levels. Mediterranean Southern Europe (+57%) and theCentral America (+54%) also benefited from a strong recovery – we particularly remember the performance of Greece last summer – but remain at levels 54% and 56% below 2019 levels respectively.North America (+17%) and Central and Eastern Europe (+18%) also rise above 2020 levels.

Parallel to, Africa saw a 12% increase in arrivals in 2021 compared to 2020, although figures are 74% lower than 2019. middle EastArrivals decreased by 24% compared to 2020 and by 79% compared to 2019. Asia Pacificarrivals were still 65% below 2020 levels and 94% below pre-pandemic numbers, with many destinations remaining closed to non-essential travel.

Third quarter rebound?

For 2022, the UNWTO experts see the prospects as “more favourable”, even if the situation at the beginning of the year should remain “worried” due to the recent wave of Covid-19 cases, intensified by the Omicron variant.

“The latest advice from the UNWTO Expert Group is that most tourism professionals (61%) expect a more favorable outlook for 2022, according to the UNWTO press release. 58% expect a recovery in 2022, mainly in the third quarter, and 42% do not expect a possible recovery until 2023.” But the recovery will take a long time: the majority of experts (64%) estimate this. that the return of international arrivals to 2019 levels will not occur until 2024 or later, compared to 45% according to the September survey.

The UNWTO scenarios project international tourist arrivals to grow by 30% to 78% compared to 2021. However, these are still 50% to 63% below pre-pandemic levels, the document explains.

Concerns about the economic environment

The recent spike in Covid-19 cases and the Omicron variant will disrupt the recovery and undermine confidence in early 2022, UNWTO says, as countries reinstate travel bans and restrictions for certain markets. At the same time, vaccination progress continues unevenly and many travel destinations still have their borders completely closed, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region. »

Another difficulty: “A difficult economic environment could further weigh on the effective recovery of international tourism, with rising oil prices, rising inflation, potentially rising interest rates, high levels of debt and continued disrupted supply chains. »

But the picture is not entirely bleak. “Nevertheless, the continued recovery of tourism in many markets, mainly in Europe and America, combined with large-scale vaccination and a general and coordinated lifting of travel restrictions, can be expected to help restore consumer confidence and the recovery of the international to accelerate tourism in 2022,” predicts the UNWTO.

In parallel with the increase in international tourism, domestic tourism is likely to further fuel tourism recovery in a growing number of destinations, UNWTO expects. Domestic tourism and travel close to home, as well as outdoor activities, nature-related products and rural tourism are among the major travel trends that will continue to shape tourism in 2022, according to the UNWTO Expert Group. Trends already observed since the beginning of the pandemic and on which a growing number of tour operators are surfing are forced to develop their activities to adapt to the health context.

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