Mandatory vaccine and its effect on international tourism ( Part II)

Mandatory vaccine and its effect on international tourism ( Part II)

I was at the airport over the week-end to welcome a relative. The British airways flight touched down at 8pm. My relative eventually came out some few minutes to 11pm. It was a long time spent at the airport. Prior to COVID-19 meeting a relative or guest did not take this long. The introduction of the PCR Testing followed by other introduced safety measures have made things slow at our airports and tourists must be prepared to welcome these new measures and the long wait.

Without a vaccination card, no airline will be willing to issue a boarding pass and that seems to be the norm. I’m scheduled for a trip outside the country and part of the requirements includes a vaccination card or a negative PCR test within the last 24hours. It looks as if not all countries have made vaccination mandatory prior to travel.

Considering the number of people arriving into the country whiles at the airport, on may believe travel is still very popular. For now, there seem to be some confidence in travellers and that’s due to the mandatory vaccine enforcement and the mandatory PCR testing. The number of people refusing to travel due to their unwillingness to take the vaccines is still being measured. One may argue that those travelling may be those who really need to travel and have no objection to being vaccinated. What about non-essential travel or leisure travel which constitute the larger markets of all arrivals.

The UNWTO World Tourism Barometer which monitors short-term tourism trends on a regular basis to provide global tourism stakeholders with up-to-date analysis on international tourism, Tourism Grew by 4% in 2021 but Remains Far Below Pre-Pandemic Levels. The report is published four times a year and includes an analysis of the latest data on tourism destinations (inbound tourism) and source markets (outbound tourism). The Barometer also includes a Confidence Index based on the UNWTO Panel of Tourism Experts survey, which provides an evaluation of recent performance and short-term prospects on international tourism.

International tourism experienced a 4% increase in 2021, 15 million more international tourist arrivals (overnight visitors) compared to 2020 (415 million versus 400 million). However, international arrivals were still 72% below the pre-pandemic year of 2019, according to preliminary estimates. This follows on from 2020, the worst year on record for tourism, when international arrivals decreased by 73%.

The uplift in demand was driven by increased traveler confidence amid rapid progress on vaccinations and the easing of entry restrictions in many destinations. International tourism rebounded moderately during the second half of 2021, with international arrivals down 62% in both the third and fourth quarters compared to pre-pandemic levels.

According to limited data, international arrivals in December were 65% below 2019 levels. The full impact of the Omicron variant and surge in COVID-19 cases is yet to be seen.
The pace of recovery remains slow and uneven across world regions due to varying degrees of mobility restrictions, vaccination rates and traveler confidence.
Europe and the Americas recorded the strongest results in 2021 compared to 2020 (+19% and +17% respectively), but still both 63% below pre-pandemic levels.

By subregion, the Caribbean saw the best performance (+63% above 2020, though 37% below 2019), with some destinations coming close to, or exceeding pre-pandemic levels.
Southern Mediterranean Europe (+57%) and Central America (+54%) also enjoyed a significant rebound but remain 54% and 56% down on 2019 levels respectively.
North America (+17%) and Central Eastern Europe (+18%) also climbed above 2020 levels.Meanwhile, Africa saw a 12% increase in arrivals in 2021 compared to 2020, though this is still 74% below 2019.

In the Middle East arrivals declined 24% compared to 2020 and 79% over 2019.  In Asia and the Pacific arrivals were still 65% below 2020 levels and 94% when compared to pre-pandemic values as many destinations remained closed to non-essential travel.

The economic contribution of tourism in 2021 (measured in tourism direct gross domestic product) is estimated at US$1.9 trillion, above the US$1.6 trillion in 2020, but still well below the pre-pandemic value of US$ 3.5 trillion. Export revenues from international tourism could exceed US$700 billion in 2021, a small improvement over 2020 due to higher spending per trip, but less than half the US$1.7 trillion recorded in 2019.

Average receipts per arrival are estimated to reach US$1,500 in 2021, up from US$1,300 in 2020. This is due to large pent-up savings and longer lengths of stay, as well as higher transport and accommodation prices.

According to the latest UNWTO Panel of Experts, most tourism professionals (61%) see better prospects for 2022. While 58% expect a rebound in 2022, mostly during the third quarter, an 42% vs point to a potential rebound only in 2023.  A majority of experts (64%) now expect international arrivals to return to 2019 levels only in 2024 or later, up from 45% in the September survey.

The UNWTO Confidence Index shows a slight decline in January-April 2022.
A rapid and more widespread vaccination roll-out, followed by a major lifting of travel restrictions, and more coordination and clearer information on travel protocols, are the main factors identified by experts for the effective recovery of international tourism. UNWTO scenarios indicate that international tourist arrivals could grow by 30% to 78% in 2022 as compared to 2021.

However, this is still 50% to 63% below pre-pandemic levels. The recent rise in COVID-19 cases and the Omicron variant are set to disrupt the recovery and affect confidence through early 2022 as some countries reintroduce travel bans and restrictions for certain markets. At the same time, the vaccination roll-out remains uneven and many destinations still have their borders completely closed, mostly in Asia and the Pacific.

A challenging economic environment could put additional pressure on the effective recovery of international tourism, with the surge in oil prices, increase in inflation, potential rise in interest rates, high debt volumes and the continued disruption in supply chains.
However, the ongoing tourism recovery in many markets, mostly in Europe and the Americas, coupled with the widespread vaccination rollout and a major coordinated lifting of travel restrictions, could help to restore consumer confidence and accelerate the recovery of international tourism in 2022.

Recently, emirate airline suspended its flight to Ghana and it’s a fact that airlines are struggling and the slow rebound is a contribution factor. Travel and tourism news reports that airlines in Europe this winter are flying passenger planes that are at times nearly empty in order to hold onto coveted take-off and landing spots at airports during a time of lower travel demand.

Recent publicity around this usage requirement has sparked controversy and anger at a time of growing international concern over climate change and the carbon emissions created by the aviation industry. Airport industry representatives, meanwhile, are defending it, arguing for the need to maintain commercial viability, connectivity and competitiveness.

Airlines have expressed frustration over so-called “use it or lose it” slot rules established by the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, which was suspended in March 2020 as the industry was floored by the Covid-19 pandemic. It has since been brought back incrementally to now require airlines to use 50% of their allocated airport slots. That figure is scheduled to increase to 80% this summer. German carrier Lufthansa is among those airlines, and is already cutting some 33,000 flights over the winter season as the omicron variant hobbles demand.

Still, it has to make 18,000 flights over the winter season to meet its slot use requirement, its CEO said.
Its subsidiary Brussels Airlines is having to make 3,000 almost-empty flights by the end of March. Due to the weak demand in January, we would have reduced significantly more flights, Lufthansa Group CEO Carsten Spohr told a German newspaper in late December.

He added while climate-friendly exemptions were found in almost all other parts of the world during the time of the pandemic, the EU does not allow this in the same way.
Whatever the future holds for this year, the rebound will still not be the same as post-pandemic. Confidence building among travelers and the easing of the travel process is key to speeding up any recovery process. Expert have made their projections however many others factors need to work to our advantage in smoothing the rebound process.

Philip Gebu is a Tourism Lecturer. He is the C.E.O of FoReal Destinations Ltd, a Tourism Destinations Management and Marketing Company based in Ghana and with partners in many other countries. Please contact Philip with your comments and suggestions. Write to [email protected] / [email protected]. Visit our website at or call or WhatsApp +233(0)244295901/0264295901.Visit our social media sites Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: FoReal Destinations


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