Published on : Saturday, January 22, 2022
Almost two years since the pandemic devastated the tourism industry, it seems there is reason for hope.
As domestic and European restrictions ease, people have got their eyes on the skies.
Recent data revealed that bookings for intra-European travel over the Easter break have increased by over 250% on last year.
Summer bookings are currently 80% above 2021 levels but as countries across the continent continue to relax travel restrictions, early indications show this will rise.
While travel within Europe during Easter and summer is expected to remain below pre-pandemic levels, as recovery gains momentum, it will edge closer to 2019 levels.
The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) has called for governments to remove all travel restrictions for fully vaccinated people.
The high vaccination rate in Europe and the rollout of the EU Digital COVID-19 Certificate have enabled the release of pent-up demand in recent months but industry groups believe that easing restrictions will lead to a significant uplift in intra-regional travel.
The problems occur when governments react with travel restrictions. The World Health Organisation says that closing borders is pointless when Omicron is already prevalent in society.
All it does is damage the economy and livelihoods, said Julia Simpson, WTTC President and CEO.
According to WTTC’s research, in 2020, when the pandemic brought international travel to an almost standstill, 62 million jobs were lost, and the sector’s contribution to the global GDP fell by US$4.5 trillion (just under €4bn).
A survey conducted by the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) showed the majority of travel experts do not expect international arrivals to return to 2019 levels until at least 2024.
The Confidence Index of UNWTO indicated a slight decline in January-April 2022 due to the spike in COVID-19 cases caused by the Omicron variant.
It said that while scenarios indicate international tourist arrival could potentially increase by almost 80% in 2022 compared to last year, this would still be 50-60% below 2019 levels.
Overall, tourism professionals see better times to come as it slowly rebuilds itself after two years of lockdowns and uncertainty.
Plans announced by Ryanair to launch their largest ever summer schedule from Dublin Airport was another sign of hope for the hard-hit sector.