Econostrum | Economic News in the Mediterranean



World tourism is not expected to regain its cruising altitude before 2023

The airports will have to wait until 2024 to return to normal activity (photo: F. Dubessy).
The airports will have to wait until 2024 to return to normal activity (photo: F. Dubessy).
WORLD. According to a survey carried out in January 2021 by the World Tourism Organisation (WTO) among professionals, "it will take two and a half to four years for international tourism to return to 2019 levels". The Madrid-based association notes that "world tourism in 2020 recorded the worst results in its history". International arrivals fell by 74%, with destinations losing a billion tourists compared to the previous year (500 million of which were in Europe alone). In comparison, the financial and economic crisis of 2009 had an impact of only 4% on these arrivals.

While Asia and the Pacific are the most affected regions (-84%), the Middle East (-76%), Europe (-71%) and Africa (-70%) have experienced heavy declines in international arrivals. In 2020, UNWTO estimates that the global tourism industry will lose $1,300 billion in revenue. This is eleven times the loss in 2009. 100 to 120 million direct jobs would be threatened, mainly in the SMIs.

All this while the end of the tunnel is still a long way off. "Much has been done to make safe international travel possible, but we are aware that the crisis is far from over. Harmonization, coordination and digitization of Covid-19 risk reduction measures at the travel level, including screening, tracing and vaccination certificates, are fundamental to promote safe travel and to prepare for the recovery of tourism when conditions allow," comments Zurab Pololikashvili, UNWTO Secretary-General.

Recovery in 2022

Only 45% of the respondents to the above-mentioned survey believe that the prospects for 2021 are more favourable than in 2020. 30% expect worse results, while 25% envisage a comparable situation.

The regions are not all in the same boat. Thus, on a global level, the study reveals that 50% believe that the rebound in international tourism for their country will take place in 2022. But, they are only 40% on the African continent, the same proportion as for a recovery in the fourth quarter of 2021. In Europe, the optimism is even stronger with 48% of respondents leaning towards a recovery in the third quarter of 2021 (38% however expect 2022). In the Middle East, 50% are betting on the fourth quarter of 2021 (33% for 2022).

According to the UNWTO, outdoor and nature tourism activities, as well as domestic tourism and slow travel experiences, will be the main sectors benefiting from the increase in demand.

However, experts in the sector do not forecast a return to 2019 levels, i.e. before the pandemic, until 2023. 43% of respondents worldwide cite this eventuality, 33% in the Middle East, 50% in Africa and 51% in Europe. Forty-three percent of the world's respondents said this could happen in 2024 or later, 35% in Europe, 30% in Africa and 17% in the Middle East.


Eric Apim

Friday, January 29th 2021

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