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UNWTO: Tourism now at 60% of pre-pandemic levels

International tourism continues to recover, with arrivals reaching 57 percent of pre-pandemic levels in the first seven months of 2022, according to the latest statistics of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

International tourist arrivals almost tripled in January to July 2022, up 172 percent, compared to the same period of 2021, recovering almost 60 percent of pre-pandemic levels.

The steady recovery reflects strong pent-up demand for international travel as well as the easing or lifting of travel restrictions to date.

A total of 86 countries do not impose COVID-19 related restrictions as of September 19, 2022.

“Tourism continues to recover steadily, yet several challenges remain, from geopolitical to economic,” acknowledged UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili.

“The sector is bringing back hope and opportunity for people everywhere. Now is also the time to rethink tourism, where it is going and how it impacts people and planet.”

Some 474 million tourists travelled internationally over the period, versus the 175 million in the same months of 2021.

An estimated 207 million international arrivals were recorded in June and July 2022 combined, over twice the numbers seen in the same two months last year.

These months represent 44 percent of the total arrivals recorded in the first seven months of 2022.

Asia and the Pacific recorded a 165 percent increase, with arrivals more than doubling in the first seven months of 2022, though they remained 86 percent below 2019 levels, as some borders remained closed to non-essential travel.

On the other hand, Europe and the Middle East showed the fastest recovery in January-July 2022, with arrivals reaching 74 percent and 76 percent of 2019 levels respectively.

Europe welcomed almost three times as many international arrivals as in the first seven months of 2021, up 190 percent, with results boosted by strong intra-regional demand and travel from the United States.

Arrivals climbed to about 85 percent of 2019 levels in July.

The lifting of travel restrictions in a large number of destinations also fuelled these results (44 countries in Europe had no COVID-19 related restrictions as of 19 September 2022).

The Middle East saw international arrivals grow almost four times year-on-year in January-July 2022, up 287 percent.

Arrivals exceeded pre-pandemic levels in July (+3 percent), boosted by the extraordinary results posted by Saudi Arabia (+121 percent) following the Hajj pilgrimage.

The Americas (+103 percent) and Africa (+171 percent) also recorded strong growth in January-July 2022 compared to 2021, reaching 65 percent and 60 percent of 2019 levels respectively.

International passenger air traffic likewise registered a robust performance, with a 234 percent increase in January-July 2022 (45 percent below 2019 levels) and a recovery of some 70 percent of pre-pandemic traffic levels in July, according to IATA.

However, stronger-than-expected demand created operational and workforce challenges in tourism companies and infrastructure, particularly airports.

In addition, the economic situation, exacerbated by the aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine, represents a major downside risk.

The combination of increasing interest rates in all major economies, rising energy and food prices and the growing prospects of a global recession as indicated by the World Bank, are major threats to the recovery of international tourism through the remainder of 2022 and 2023.

Overall, tourism experts are “cautiously confident” for the remainder of the year.

On a scale of 0 to 200, the UNWTO Panel of Tourism Experts rated the period September-December 2022 with a score of 111, below the 125 score of the previous four months.

This showed a downgrade in confidence levels.

Almost half of experts (47 percent) see positive prospects for the period September-December 2022, while 24 percent expect no particular change and 28 percent consider it could be worse.

Experts also seem confident about 2023, as 65 percent see better tourism performance than in 2022.

The uncertain economic environment seems to have nonetheless reversed prospects for a return to pre-pandemic levels in the near term.

Some 61 percent of experts now see a potential return of international arrivals to 2019 levels in 2024 or later while those indicating a return to pre-pandemic levels in 2023 has diminished (27 percent) compared to the May survey (48 percent).

The economic environment continues to be the main factor weighing on the recovery of international tourism.

Rising inflation and the spike in oil prices results in higher transport and accommodation costs, while putting consumer purchasing power and savings under pressure.

Credit belongs to : www.mb.com.ph

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