How Quickly is Tourism Recovering From COVID-19?

Photo-illustration: Pixabay

Tourism was hit particularly hard by the pandemic, as lockdowns restricted people to travelling around their homes and neighbourhoods rather than around the world. But there are now signs that tourist numbers are starting to recover as limitations on movement are eased.

There was a 27 percent rise in nights spent at EU tourist accommodation in 2021, according to Eurostat, the statistical office of the EU. This took the total to 1.8 billion, although this was still 37 percent less than in 2019, before COVID-19.

Where tourists went

Greece, Spain and Croatia saw the biggest rises in visitors last year, with the number of nights spent at tourist accommodation jumping by more than 70 percent. Trips to Austria, Latvia and Slovakia fell, but by less than 18 percent.

“This shows signs of recovery in the tourism sector,” Eurostat says.

However, when 2021 tourist night numbers are compared with 2019, it shows some countries lost more than half their bookings. Latvia, Slovakia, Malta and Hungary were the worst hit. Denmark and the Netherlands, on the other hand, were the least affected countries. They saw drops of less than 20 percent in nights spent in tourist accommodation.

Eurostat says the figures are “far less dramatic” than the contrast between 2019 and 2020, when tourism in the EU halved.

Tourism supports jobs

More than 2 million businesses – mostly small and medium-sized companies – make up the EU’s tourism industry, according to the European Parliament.

Photo-illustration: Pixabay

These firms employ an estimated 12.3 million people, but worker numbers increase to 27.3 million when related sectors are taken into account.

Across the EU in 2018, travel and tourism made up about 4 percent of GDP – the total value of products and services produced in a country – or 10 percent if closely related sectors are taken into account.

Three-quarters of these tourism businesses operated in either accommodation or serving food and drink. Italy, France, Spain and Germany were home to 55 percent of the EU’s tourism firms in 2018.

Global growth and risks

Tourism is the world’s third-biggest export sector, according to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), a special United Nations agency.

Because of COVID-19, tourism lost out on around USD 1 trillion of export revenues in 2021, UNWTO estimates. It predicts that the tourism industry will recover gradually in 2022.

International tourist arrivals globally grew 130 percent in January 2022, UNWTO says. And this was despite the Omicron variant of COVID-19 slowing down the speed of the recovery.

The war in Ukraine also poses a new risk to the global tourism industry – by potentially disrupting the return of confidence to travel, UNWTO says.

Source: World Economic Forum