World tourism won’t return to pre-pandemic levels until 2024, says UN

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Jan 19 2022 04:55 AM

Passengers stand at the departures hall of Hong Kong International Airport, following COVID-19 infections in Hong Kong, China, January 11, 2022. Lam Yik, Reuters/file
Passengers stand at the departures hall of Hong Kong International Airport, following COVID-19 infections in Hong Kong, China, January 11, 2022. Lam Yik, Reuters/file

Tourism arrivals around the world are not expected to return to their pre-pandemic levels until 2024 at the earliest, the World Tourism Organization said Tuesday.

The highly contagious omicron variant, though mild, will "disrupt the recovery" in early 2022 after last year saw 4% growth over 2020, according to the Madrid-based UN agency's World Tourism Barometer.

Tourism revenue in 2020 was 72% down on the previous year, which closed with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. 

"The pace of recovery remains slow and uneven across world regions due to varying degrees of mobility restrictions, vaccination rates and traveller confidence," the UNWTO said in a press release.

In Europe and the Americas, foreign visitor arrivals surged by 19 percent and 17 percent, respectively, last year over 2020.

In the Middle East, however, arrivals declined by 24% in 2021, while in the Asia-Pacific region they were 65% below 2020 levels, and 94% down on pre-pandemic levels.

The statement said tourism professionals "see better prospects" for this year after turbulence in the early months because of the omicron wave.

The agency predicts a 30% to 78% rise in international arrivals this year over 2021, while remaining far below 2019 levels.

Most experts say they do not foresee a return to pre-pandemic levels until at least 2024, it said. 

Many countries are highly dependent on tourism and are eagerly awaiting a return to normal.

"The economic contribution of tourism in 2021 (measured in tourism direct gross domestic product) is estimated at $1.9 trillion (1.68 trillion euros), above the $1.6 trillion in 2020, but still well below the pre-pandemic value of $3.5 trillion," the statement noted.

FROM THE ARCHIVES

Watch more News on iWantTFC