Tourist market: One planet, different realities
In recent days, measures have been announced that can generate an asymmetric reactivation in different regions, the industry adapts and warms up for an imminent recovery in demand
The tourist market lives a present full of adrenaline, every day is loaded with news that are changing the course of recovery. Unfortunately, not all regions have been able to advance in measures that ease restrictions and generate a sustained recovery in demand.
In this sense, the European Union with successes and errors may be marking a valid path that can later be improved. The digital COVID Certificate has received the green light from all member states. It could be the key to unlocking international travel and saving thousands of businesses and millions of jobs globally. The commitment of states in other latitudes such as the Americas is not conspicuous by its absence, but in a continent so diverse from every point of view, the approval of a similar measure is delayed. The good news is that short-term and long-term demand will justify the effort and there could be news shortly.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) and Tourism Economics released a long-term vision for the recovery in passenger demand after COVID-19 showing that people remain eager to travel in the short and long term. To ensure that aviation can sustainably deliver its social and economic benefits as it meets this long-term demand, it is critical that governments intensify their support for more efficient operations and foster an effective energy transition.
Forecast highlights include
- In 2021, global passenger numbers are expected to rebound to 52% from pre-COVID-19 (2019) levels.
- In 2022, global passenger numbers are expected to rebound to 88% from pre-COVID-19 levels.
- In 2023, global passenger numbers are expected to exceed pre-COVID-19 levels (105%).
- By 2030, the number of passengers globally is expected to have risen to 5.6 billion. That would be 7% below the pre-COVID-19 forecast and an estimated loss of 2-3 years of growth due to COVID-19.
- After 2030, air travel is expected to slow down, due to weaker demographics and a baseline case of limited market liberalization, yielding an average annual growth between 2019 and 2039 of 3.2%. IATA's pre-COVID-19 growth forecast for this period was 3.8%.
The recovery in passenger numbers is slightly stronger than the recovery in demand measured in revenue per passenger-kilometers (RPK), which is expected to grow by an annual average of 3% between 2019 and 2039. This is due to the expected strength of domestic markets such as China with large numbers of passengers and shorter distances.
“I am always optimistic about aviation. We are in the deepest and most serious crisis in our history. But the rapidly growing vaccinated population and advances in testing will restore the freedom to fly in the coming months. And when that happens, people will want to travel. The immediate challenge is to reopen borders, remove quarantine measures, and digitally manage vaccination / testing certificates. At the same time, we must assure the world that aviation's long-term growth prospects are underpinned by an unwavering commitment to sustainability. Both of these challenges require governments and industry to work in partnership. Aviation is ready. But I don't see governments moving fast enough, ”said Willie Walsh, IATA Director General.
Short term: reboot
The damage from the COVID-19 crisis will be felt for years to come, but everything indicates that people have retained their need and desire to travel:
- Any chance of the borders being reopened is met with an instant surge in reserves. The most recent example is the 100 percentage point increase in UK bookings to Portugal when the UK's "Green List" was announced in early May.
- The economy is strong and can drive travel growth. The industrial production levels of February 2021 were 2% above the levels of February 2019.
- Consumers have accumulated savings at closings, in some cases exceeding 10% of GDP.
- Vaccination rates in developed countries (with the notable exception of Japan) should exceed 50% of the population by the third quarter of 2021.
“This should be a wake-up call to governments to prepare. The travel and tourism sector is one of the main contributors to GDP. People's livelihoods are at stake. To avoid further long-term economic and social damage, restart should not be delayed. Governments can facilitate a safe restart with policies that allow unrestricted travel for vaccinated people and test alternatives for those who cannot be vaccinated. Governments must also be prepared with processes to digitally administer the vaccine or test certificates, ensuring that a safe restart is efficient as well, ”Walsh said.