Sustainability, training, investments and technology, the foundations of the new tourism
The UNWTO Executive Council has met to advance the recovery around shared objectives and a common vision for the sector
Held for the first time in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, session 116 was the largest meeting of the Executive Council since the start of the pandemic, with more than 200 participants and 32 countries represented. Members noted that the meeting came at a crucial time for the sector as it learns from the lessons of the pandemic while also looking towards a more sustainable, inclusive and resilient future.
Advancing priorities in difficult times
Tourism is united and purposeful like never before, and UNWTO is leading it forward, with inclusion and sustainability at the heart of all our work.
"We have faced a triple crisis: an ongoing pandemic, a climate emergency and now the return of war in Europe," UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said. He stressed that “tourism is united and purposeful like never before, and UNWTO is leading it forward, with inclusion and sustainability at the core of all our work”.
In his report to Members on achievements since the previous Council meeting six months ago, the Secretary-General illustrated how UNWTO is harnessing the unprecedented relevance of tourism, including within the United Nations, in national growth and recovery plans. and in public and media conversation in general.
UNWTO outlined its plans to further advance priorities around fostering sustainability, promoting employment and education in tourism, increasing investment in tourism and accelerating its digital transformation.
Saudi Arabian Minister of Tourism and host of the Executive Council, Ahmed Al Khateeb, said: “The restart of tourism in many countries around the world offers a unique opportunity to rethink tourism governance, communications and beyond. We have an incredible opportunity to set a new path forward, to create a strong future for the global tourism industry, and we must seize it."
The Minister of Tourism and Leisure of Côte d'Ivoire, also President of the Executive Council, Siandou Fofana, echoed the recognition of the importance of tourism and pointed out that "tourism is united to face future challenges", while highlighting the importance of cohesion. in planning and policy making as the sector recovers to drive broader social and economic recovery.
Members agreed to hold the 117th session of the UNWTO Executive Council in Morocco, in the second half of this year. With two countries offering to host the 118th session, members voted in favor of the Dominican Republic holding the first Council in 2023.
Tourism continues to recover at a strong pace. Globally, destinations received almost three times more international arrivals in the first quarter of 2022 than in the same period of 2021, with Europe leading the sector's rebound.
According to the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer , international tourism experienced a year-on-year increase of 182% between January and March 2022, with destinations around the world receiving some 117 million international arrivals compared to 41 million in the first quarter of 2021 . Of the additional 76 million international arrivals during the first three months, around 47 million were registered in March, showing that the recovery is gaining momentum.
Europe and the Americas lead the recovery
UNWTO data shows that during the first quarter of 2022, Europe received almost four times more international arrivals (+280%) than in the first quarter of 2021, with results driven by strong demand intraregional. In the Americas, arrivals more than doubled (+117%) in the same three months. However, arrivals in Europe and the Americas were still 43% and 46% below 2019 levels, respectively.
The Middle East (+132%) and Africa (+96%) also saw strong growth in the first quarter of 2022 compared to 2021, but arrivals remained 59% and 61% below 2019 levels, respectively. Asia and the Pacific saw a 64% increase from 2021, but again, levels were 93% below 2019 figures as several destinations remained closed to non-essential travel.
By subregion, the Caribbean and southern Mediterranean Europe continue to show the fastest recovery rates. In both, arrivals recovered to almost 75% of 2019 levels, with some destinations reaching or exceeding pre-pandemic levels.
up While international tourism remains 61% below 2019 levels, the gradual recovery is expected to continue throughout 2022, as more destinations relax or lift travel restrictions and accumulated demand. As of June 2, 45 destinations (of which 31 are in Europe) had no restrictions related to COVID-19. In Asia, an increasing number of destinations have begun to ease those restrictions.
Despite these positive prospects, a challenging economic environment coupled with the Russian Federation's military offensive in Ukraine pose a downside risk to the ongoing recovery in international tourism. The Russian offensive in Ukraine appears to have had a limited direct impact on overall results so far, although it is disrupting travel in Eastern Europe. However, the conflict is having significant economic repercussions globally, exacerbating already high oil prices and general inflation, and disrupting international supply chains, resulting in higher transportation and accommodation costs for the tourism sector.
Export revenues will recover faster as spending rises
The latest issue of the UNWTO Tourism Barometer also shows that US$1 billion in international tourism export revenue was lost in 2021, adding to the US$1 billion lost in the first year of the pandemic. Total tourism export earnings (including passenger transport revenues) reached an estimated US$713 billion in 2021, an increase of 4% in real terms from 2020, but still 61% below forecast levels. 2019. International tourism receipts reached USD 602 billion, also up 4% in real terms from 2020. Europe and the Middle East were the best performers, with receipts rising to around 50% of pre-2020 levels. the pandemic in both regions.
However, the amount spent per trip is on the rise, from an average of $1,000 in 2019 to $1,400 in 2021.
Stronger-than-expected recovery ahead
The latest UNWTO Confidence Index showed a marked rebound. For the first time since the start of the pandemic, the index returned to 2019 levels, reflecting growing optimism among tourism experts around the world, capitalizing on strong pent-up demand, particularly travel within Europe and the travel from the US to Europe.
According to the latest UNWTO Panel of Experts survey, an overwhelming majority of tourism professionals (83%) see better prospects for 2022 compared to 2021, provided the virus is contained and destinations continue to relax or lift travel restrictions. . However, the ongoing closure of some of the main source markets, mainly in Asia and the Pacific, as well as the uncertainty arising from the Russia-Ukraine conflict, could delay the effective recovery of international tourism.
A larger number of experts (48%) now see a potential return of international arrivals to 2019 levels in 2023 (from 32% in the January survey), while the percentage indicating this could happen in 2024 or later late (44%) has decreased compared to the January survey (64%). Meanwhile, as of the end of April, international air capacity in the Americas, Africa, Europe, the North Atlantic and the Middle East has reached or is close to 80% of pre-crisis levels and demand continues.
UNWTO has revised its outlook for 2022 due to better than expected results in the first quarter of 2022, a significant increase in flight bookings and the outlook for the UNWTO Confidence Index. International tourist arrivals are now expected to reach between 55% and 70% of 2019 levels in 2022, depending on various circumstances, including the rate at which destinations continue to lift travel restrictions, the evolution of the war in Ukraine, possible new coronavirus outbreaks and global problems. economic conditions, particularly inflation and energy prices.