New study forecasts a global tourism recovery by 2024

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New study forecasts a global tourism recovery by 2024
Source: Twitter @ACI_LAC
June 29, 2022

Airports Council International published a report that reviews the impact of the pandemic, its effects on airports and the road to recovery

Airports Council International (ACI) World has released its tenth quarterly assessment looking at the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, its effects on airports, and the path to recovery.

More than two years after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the COVID-19 outbreak a global pandemic, some "normalcy" has begun to emerge thanks to a historic vaccination effort that saw, at the time of publication, more than 12 billion doses administered in 184 countries.

This unprecedented vaccination effort is now beginning to bear fruit despite some setbacks from the recent Omicron wave. Many countries have followed through on their plans to return to some normality, lifting many health measures, relaxing travel restrictions and reopening borders. The momentum created by the reopening had a positive and immediate impact on the recovery in global demand for air travel. The summer months of 2022 are expected to be exceptionally strong, with many noting that the summer of 2022 is actually "three summers merged into one."

As more pandemic restrictions were lifted, facilitating trade in goods and allowing the manufacturing and service sectors to grow, the performance of the global economy accelerated, especially in the final months of 2021. The International Monetary Fund (IMF ) estimated the global growth of the economy in 2021 at 6.1%. However, growth is expected to slow significantly in 2022 and 2023 as the recovery faces multiple obstacles, ranging from potential new variants, high crude oil prices, higher inflation, supply disruptions or geopolitical conflicts, and the humanitarian crisis. resulting. According to the IMF, global growth is expected to moderate to 3.6% in 2022 and 2023, down 0.8 and 0.2 percentage points from its January forecast. [1] . High levels of inflation are contributing significantly to this global slowdown. Energy and food prices have risen rapidly, disproportionately affecting low-income countries. In its April 2022 Economic Outlook, the IMF highlights that “multilateral efforts are essential to respond to the humanitarian crisis, prevent further economic fragmentation, maintain global liquidity, manage the debt overhang, address climate change, and end pandemic".

On the vaccine front, the pace of vaccination has continued to accelerate in core emerging markets in recent months, but many countries remain well below the commonly recognized threshold for herd immunity. Only 18% of the population in low-income countries have received at least one dose of a vaccine, while 81% of the population in high- and upper-middle-income countries have received at least one dose. Targeting countries with a low vaccination rate is especially important to prevent the risk of new waves and the formation of new variants.

In this general context, this document seeks to highlight some key figures in terms of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on airport traffic and to explore avenues for recovery.

1. Recovery of airport traffic

The recent momentum created by the lifting of many health measures and the relaxation of most travel restrictions in many European countries and in the Americas has renewed optimism in the industry. However, it further exposed the uneven recovery, as major aviation markets in Asia-Pacific lag behind their Western counterparts as they continue to be partially closed to international traffic. Air travel should see a rebound in the second half of 2022, bringing the industry closer to recovery. While many indicators point to recovery, the industry is also facing some notable headwinds.

upside risks

  • Accumulated demand: there are clear signs of an increase in the demand for air travel as a result of a combination of pains accumulated by consumers during the pandemic, the deprivation of vacancies that have caused many travelers to enjoy and the desire to reconnect with family members, friends and/or colleagues. Many industry analysts refer to it as "travel to revenge", since the passengers are in a hurry to fly through the cities after having been confined in their homes for the last two years.
  • Vaccination rate and relaxation of travel restrictions: The acceleration of the relaxation of travel restrictions, a major obstacle to air travel and, in particular, international, is likely to increase the demand for air travel. Many countries in all regions have put plans in place to lift many, if not all, health measures, relax travel restrictions and reopen borders as a step back to normalcy. Many of the world's major aviation markets with originating passenger traffic have achieved vaccination rates of over 70%. In many cases, vaccines serve as a passport to travel in the current context

Downside risks

  • Geopolitical conflicts: The war between Russia and Ukraine contributed to further damage to the economy, adding to the global slowdown in 2022. It not only caused a rise in energy prices that affected the cost of travel, but a crisis humanitarian crisis that resulted in millions of refugees and a global food crisis. There are risks of spillovers globally into other commodity markets adding to the inflation drive.
  • Economic Recession – The risk of an economic recession due to rising interest rates intended to curb inflation is ever present. This, coupled with the significant increase in jet fuel prices, could weaken and even delay the recovery of the aviation industry in the short term by increasing the cost of travel. The IMF expects inflation to remain flat in 2022, forecast to reach 5.7% in advanced economies and 8.7% in emerging markets and developing economies  [2]  .
  • Supply Chain Disruptions and Labor Shortages – Supply chain disruption affecting a wide variety of commodities and services triggered a rapid increase in the price of oil and gas, including jet fuel, as well as a broader transportation crisis. Shipping container shortages, clogged seaports, and cross-border shipping disruptions have a direct impact on the health of the global economy.

    Rapid growth in demand following the relaxation of travel restrictions has led to unprecedented labor shortages for airports, airlines and other service providers. This shortage has been exacerbated by pandemic-induced layoffs across the aviation ecosystem. Rehiring has proven particularly difficult for the industry, as many aviation workers have moved on to careers in other sectors.
  • Potential New Outbreak – As we saw with the Omicron wave, a less virulent but highly contagious variant may still have a significant impact on the aviation industry. However, the propensity for such disruptions decreases as populations become fully vaccinated and governments learn to manage such outbreaks. Lessons learned from managing COVID-19 will also help governments and industry better manage future health events.

Against this background, using the most recent data from ACI World's monthly traffic data collections in 2022, new global and regional estimates of the impact of the crisis on passenger traffic are presented.


  • For the full year of 2021, the COVID-19 outbreak eliminated 4.6 billion passengers compared to 2019, representing a 50.3% loss of global passenger traffic. During the first two years of the pandemic, the COVID-19 outbreak reduced the number of passengers in the world's airports by 10.2 billion.
  • Global passenger traffic is expected to improve significantly in 2022 to 77% of what it was in 2019, with 2022 traffic totaling 7.1 billion.
  • A full recovery to 2019 levels is forecast globally by 2024.


  • Africa posted some significant gains in 2021, ending the year down 51.6% compared to the 2019 level. The region is expected to continue to recover in 2022 despite the vaccination challenges it faces, reaching close to 72 % of your 2019 level by the end of the year.
  • Due to its reliance on international traffic, Africa will remain part of the hardest hit regions and is expected to fully recover to 2019 levels only in mid to late 2024.

Pacific Asia

  • The initial momentum of the Asia-Pacific region was severely affected in the second half of 2021 by the resurgence of COVID-19 and the reintroduction of travel restrictions in the region. The region ended 2021 at just 43.5% of its 2019 level.
  • While some Asia-Pacific countries have reopened to vaccinated travelers, the international passenger market is not expected to see significant improvement before the second half of 2022. The region is expected to have the slowest recovery, reaching only 62% of 2019 levels in 2022 A full-year recovery to 2019 levels is expected by the end of 2024, but could be delayed until 2025 if certain countries are slow to lift the rest of their COVID-19 restrictions.


  • Although the region saw a significant improvement in the third and fourth quarters of 2021, Europe ended the year at 43.5% of its 2019 level. However, the positive trend of recent quarters should continue into 2022, especially during the summer months, which would bring the region to 78% of its 2019 level by the end of the year.
  • Despite some downside risks during the fall and winter seasons, Europe's full-year recovery to 2019 levels is expected in 2024.

Latin America-Caribbean

  • The Latin America and Caribbean region posted a strong second half of 2021, helped by a strong recovery in domestic passengers in country-markets such as Mexico, leading the region to end 2021 at 62.6% of its level of 2019.
  • The region is expected to continue to experience a positive rebound in 2022. The increase in leisure travel is forecast to take the region up 83% by the end of the year compared to 2019. The region is expected to rebound throughout the year in late 2023 or early 2024.

The middle east

  • The Middle East remained the most affected region in 2021, despite some improvements in the second half of 2021, reaching only 41.6% of its 2019 level by the end of the year.
  • The region's high reliance on international travel and connectivity, both of which are recovering much more slowly than domestic travel, will continue to affect its recovery in 2022. The region is expected to reach 67% of 2019 levels by the end of the year and fully recover only by the end of 2024.

North America

  • Following a weak first quarter in 2021, performance in North America improved significantly, buoyed by a rapidly recovering US domestic market and a high overall vaccination rate, helping the region finish the year on 65.1% of 2019 levels.
  • The strong performance is expected to continue into 2022, helping the region outperform all other regions and reach 89% of its 2019 level by the end of the year. North America should be the first region to reach full-year recovery to 2019 levels as early as 2023.

Projection of world passenger traffic in the medium term

Todavía hay mucha incertidumbre en torno a la recuperación de la industria de la aviación, especialmente a medio y largo plazo. Proyectar el camino de la recuperación en este punto sigue siendo un ejercicio que requiere prudencia. Además de la incertidumbre relacionada con la vacunación principalmente en países emergentes y en desarrollo y el riesgo de un brote de otoño/invierno, ahora debemos agregar el conflicto geopolítico y las crisis humanitarias relacionadas, y el potencial real de una fuerte recesión económica y una recesión inminente. Esos riesgos podrían amortiguar o retrasar la recuperación.

Despite the downside risks, the industry remains confident that the potential for a recovery to 2019 levels is foreseeable within two to three years. There is no doubt that many travelers are eager to travel again and the early summer volumes are a testament to that. With the combination of "holiday deprivation" and an increase in confidence in air travel provided by higher vaccination rates and safety measures, relaxation of travel restrictions will help boost propensity to travel by air and fuel recovery of the industry. With many countries taking steps towards a return to some normality, lifting almost all health measures and travel restrictions, we expect a jump in demand for air travel in the second half of 2022.

Three scenarios were considered to assess the potential recovery path, using the following assumptions.

Current scenario:

  • Assumes distribution and adoption of effective vaccines in emerging and developing countries by 2022.
  • The scenario takes into account the impact of Omicron in the first quarter of 2022.
  • This projection assumes growing consumer confidence in the resumption of travel in 2022, high but controlled inflation, and a limited probability of a recession.
  • It assumes a reasonable recovery of the airline fleet and a continued relaxation of international travel restrictions.
  • It also assumes that supply cannot fully meet the demand for air travel.
  • It posits that additional waves of infection are possible in 2022, but would be contained and limited to specific regions or have less of an impact on air travel demand as the world increasingly learns to “live with COVID-19”.

Optimistic scenario:

  • Assumes distribution and adoption of effective vaccines in emerging and developing countries by 2022.
  • This scenario also assumes growing consumer confidence in the resumption of travel in 2022, that inflation will remain under control with minimal impact from an economic downturn on aviation.
  • It also assumes a reasonable recovery of the airline fleet and continued relaxation of international travel restrictions.
  • It assumes that supply will meet most of the demand for air travel.
  • It posits that additional waves of infection are possible in 2022, but would be contained and limited to specific regions or have less of an impact on air travel demand as the world increasingly learns to “live with COVID-19”.

Pessimistic scenario:

  • This scenario considers that access to vaccines is still limited, especially in many emerging and developing countries.
  • It assumes that fear of travel, testing, and quarantine requirements is present or re-imposed among passengers in certain markets, that economic weakness is exacerbated by substantial recession risk, and that airline fleet recovery is slow.
  • It also assumes that supply will not be able to meet a significant part of the demand for air travel.
  • He argues that there are likely to be additional waves of infections that could spread to multiple regions, and that there would be difficulties in containing the spread of new variants. New waves of infection would affect both vaccinated and unvaccinated populations.

Under those assumptions, ACI World forecasts the following regarding the recovery of airport passenger traffic:

  • Based on the current projection, which represents a slower-than-expected first quarter of 2022 due to the Omicron wave, global passenger traffic is expected to reach 2019 levels by the end of 2023 with full-year recovery to levels from 2019 to 2024. The overall recovery will primarily be driven by the recovery in domestic passenger traffic, but will be hampered by the stalling recovery in Asia-Pacific and a slower recovery in global international travel (worldwide). , domestic traffic accounted for 58% of total passenger traffic in 2019).
  • Global domestic passenger traffic is still expected to reach 2019 levels by the end of 2023 with full-year 2023 traffic on par with 2019 levels. However, global international passenger traffic will require nearly another year. to recover and will reach 2019 levels only in the second half of 2024. Full-year recovery to 2019 levels will only occur in 2025 for international passenger traffic.
  • At the country market level, markets that have significant domestic traffic are expected to recover to pre-COVID-19 levels in mid-2023 through the end of 2023. Markets with a significant share of international traffic are unlikely to recover to pre-COVID-19 levels. return to 2019 levels by 2024, with some even having to wait until 2025. Due to uneven vaccine availability, geopolitical conflict, and the resulting humanitarian crisis, as well as worsening economic prospects, some country-markets, especially emerging and developing economies, are not likely to reach 2019 passenger levels before 2025 or 2026, especially those markets that rely on international traffic.

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