The second half, a turning point for global tourism
Despite experiencing many restrictions in 2021, the sector is beginning to show positive signs that could materialize a recovery at a good pace
As expected, 2021 is a year of transition for the global tourism market. Although the first semester has been tough, as of July there is a turning point and now this year it begins to show its best version. The latest news regarding the reopening of key source markets and the restart of operations in the cruise industry have been decisive. Even different reports begin to reveal what lies ahead.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced today that domestic and international travel demand showed marginal improvements in May 2021, compared to the previous month, but traffic remained well below pre-pandemic levels. The recovery of international traffic, in particular, continued to be hampered by extensive government travel restrictions.
Because comparisons between the 2021 and 2020 monthly results are skewed by the extraordinary impact of COVID-19, unless otherwise noted, all comparisons are to May 2019, which followed a normal demand pattern.
Total air travel demand in May 2021 (measured in revenue passenger-kilometers or RPK) decreased 62.7% compared to May 2019. That was a gain from the 65.2% decrease recorded in April 2021 compared to April 2019.
International passenger demand in May was 85.1% lower than May 2019, a small increase from the 87.2% decrease in April 2021 compared to with two years ago. All regions, with the exception of Asia-Pacific, contributed to this modest improvement.
Total domestic demand fell 23.9% compared to pre-crisis levels (May 2019), and slightly improved compared to April 2021, when domestic traffic decreased 25.5% compared to the 2019 period. Traffic from China and Russia continues in positive growth territory compared to pre-COVID-19 levels, while India and Japan experienced significant deterioration amid new variants and outbreaks.
“We are beginning to see positive progress, with the opening of some international markets to vaccinated travelers. The northern hemisphere summer travel season has fully arrived. And it is disappointing that more governments are not moving faster to use data to drive open border strategies that would help jumpstart tourism jobs and reunite families, ”said Willie Walsh, IATA Director General.
The focus on vaccination and health passports
The global deployment of vaccination and the greater adoption of digital solutions for safe travel should lead to an increase in international mobility in the coming weeks and months, according to the latest data from the Organization. World Tourism (UNWTO).
According to the latest edition of the Travel Restrictions Report of the United Nations specialized agency in tourism, as of June 1, 29% of all destinations in the world have their borders completely closed to international tourism. Of these, more than half have been completely closed to tourists since May 2020 or more, with the majority of them belonging to the Small Island Developing States of Asia and the Pacific. In comparison, only three destinations (Albania, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic) are fully open to tourists, with no restrictions currently in place.
Evidence-based action and cooperation
Governments are critical to the restart and recovery of tourism through collaboration, the use of data and digital solutions.
One in three (34%) of all destinations are partially closed and 36% request a negative COVID-19 test result upon arrival, in some cases in combination with a quarantine requirement. The data confirm the trend towards destinations adopting more nuanced, evidence-based and risk-based approaches to travel restrictions, particularly in light of the evolving epidemiological situation and the emergence of new variants of the virus. In fact, 42% of all destinations have introduced specific restrictions for visitors to destinations with variants of concern ranging from flight suspension and border closures to mandatory quarantine.
In addition, since most of the destinations with the most stringent measures have some of the lowest vaccination rates, the data also indicates a link between the speed of vaccination and the easing of restrictions. In comparison, those destinations that have higher vaccination rates and where countries can work together on harmonized standards and protocols, such as those used in the Schengen area of the European Union, are better able to allow tourism to return slowly. .
“Governments are critical to the restart and recovery of tourism through collaboration, the use of data and digital solutions,” says UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili:
There are still regional differences regarding travel restrictions. 70% of all destinations in Asia and the Pacific are completely closed, compared to just 13% in Europe, as well as 20% in the Americas, 19% in Africa and 31% in the Middle East.
When evaluating current requirements for vaccinated passengers, 17% of all destinations worldwide specifically mention vaccinated passengers in their regulations. In most cases, travel restrictions continue to apply to fully vaccinated passengers (who have received two doses of an approved vaccine), although in others, all restrictions are removed. UNWTO expects this to evolve significantly in the coming weeks.
The report indicates that the restart of world tourism will remain silent as governments continue to recommend caution. Four of the top 10 outbound markets continue to advise their citizens against non-essential travel abroad (these four generated 25% of all international arrivals in 2018).
Optimism in the long term
Although there have been different reports in recent days, one of the most striking has been published by ResearchAndMarkets.com, according to the market research firm, globally tourism will grow to reach 474,364.8 million in 2025 at a rate of 9.3%. They even expect the sector to grow at a compound annual rate of 5.4% from 2025 and reach $ 618,392.6 million in 2030.
Visas under the microscope
It is important to follow closely that even before the pandemic there were restrictions that affected tourism a lot, such is the case of visas and not all citizens had the same conditions to travel. Today the pandemic puts states under the microscope and it is vital at this time to review what measures can be taken, even to repair historical errors.
As the world struggles to recover from the effects of the global health emergency, urgent questions about international travel continue to be raised. The latest results and research from the Henley Passport Index - the classification of passports worldwide - shows that Covid-19 has significantly changed its ranking. And countries that used to lead it today have lost a lot of ground.
While the dominance of European passports in the Top Ten has been a given for most of the index's 16-year history, the dominance of three Asian states (Japan, Singapore, and South Korea) has become the new normal. The Japanese lead the list and Singapore remains in second place and South Korea shares third place with Germany. The striking fact is that countries such as the United Kingdom and the United States have plummeted to an all-time low, ranking seventh. In other words, there is a negative outlook even in countries with great success regarding the management of the Covid-19 pandemic. Under current travel bans, British citizens have suffered a dramatic drop of over 70% in their travel freedom and are currently able to access fewer than 60 destinations worldwide, a passport power equivalent to that of Uzbekistan in the index. While Americans have seen a 67% decline, with access to just 61 destinations worldwide, a passport power equivalent to that of Rwanda on Henley's passport index.
Dr. Christian H. Kaelin, Chairman of Henley & Partnersy, stated that it is unclear how long the travel restrictions will remain in place, but it seems clear that global mobility will be seriously hampered for at least 2021. He highlighted that, in many countries, Serious doubts have been raised about the ability to handle a global crisis and that the restrictions will have profound consequences, including further damage to the world economy and a significant reduction in global mobility. He even mentioned that people need to expand their residency and passport options.