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COVID-19 and implications for world tourism

Over the decades, tourism has steadily grown and deepened its diversification, becoming one of the fastest economic sectors in the world.

Modern tourism is closely linked to development and covers more and more new destinations. This dynamic has made tourism a key engine of socio-economic progress.

This global spread of tourism in industrialized countries has led to economic benefits and employment in many related sectors, from construction to agriculture or telecommunications.

The contribution of tourism to economic well-being depends on the quality and income that tourism offers.

COVID-19 and implications for world tourism

In 2019, the volume of business tourism equaled or even exceeded the volume of exports of oil, food or cars. Tourism has become a major player in international trade and is also a major source of income for many developing countries.

Unfortunately, since the beginning of 2020, the world has changed dramatically. For the first time in history, there was a crisis such as the new coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19), which led to a significant global recession.

The scale and speed of the collapse of the activity that took place is unlike anything that has been observed in our lives. The current crisis is affecting not only people’s health, but all different sectors of the economy in all countries.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the measures taken by countries to combat the virus, many industries, such as tourism and air transport between countries, have been closed, leading to a global economic downturn.

The global economic impact of COVID-19 in 2020 was extremely severe. From the point of view of the global economy, the world GDP has lost about 5.2% – compare this with the rate of decline during the global financial crisis in 2009, which amounted to -0.1%.

In terms of trade, world trade in goods decreased by -9.2% compared to 2019. GDP losses on travel and tourism amounted to 4.7 trillion dollars. The loss of income from tourism amounted to about 1.3 trillion. dollars, along with the loss of more than 1.1 billion tourists worldwide. The global travel and tourism sector is projected to lose 174 million jobs.

COVID-19 and implications for world tourism

In air transport, the total loss in 2020 amounted to 118 billion dollars. US, and demand has decreased by -65.9% since 2019. Overall, the total number of airline passengers was only $ 1.8 billion last year compared to 4.5 billion passengers in 2019, meaning that the COVID-19 crisis destroyed more than 15 years of passenger traffic growth.

Last year, the total number of revenue passenger kilometers (RPK) also decreased during the year by 66%.

2020 was the worst year in the history of world tourism. According to the latest data from the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), world tourism has experienced the worst year, as the number of international tourists decreased by -74%.

381 million international tourists received destinations worldwide, which is 1.3 billion less than in the previous year, in 2019 due to an unprecedented drop in demand and widespread travel restrictions.

This collapse in international travel is estimated at a loss of 1.3 trillion in tourism revenues. 11 times the losses recorded during the global economic crisis in 2009. The crisis has also jeopardized between 100 and 120 million direct jobs in tourism, in addition to causing problems for many companies, especially small and medium-sized enterprises. medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Due to the changing nature of the epidemic, many countries are now reintroducing stricter travel restrictions, such as mandatory testing, quarantine, and in some cases complete closure of borders, all of which affect the resumption of international travel and tourism.

COVID-19 and implications for world tourism

In 2020, all regions of the world suffered from the epidemic and recorded close proportions of decline compared to the previous 2019, as shown below:

  • The Asia-Pacific region recorded a decline of -84%, for a total of 57 million, and is the region most affected by the epidemic and the region with the highest level of travel restrictions.
  • The Middle East recorded a decrease of -76% with a total of 16 million tourists.
  • Europe recorded a decline of -71% with a total of 221 million tourists, despite a small and short-term recovery in the summer of 2020.
  • Africa recorded a decrease of -70% with a total of 17.8 million tourists.
  • America recorded a decrease of -69% with a total of 69 million tourists.

The Arab countries also recorded a significant decline in inbound tourism in 2020 as follows:

  • UAE: 5.5 million tourists, a decrease of -67%.
  • Saudi Arabia: 4.1 million tourists, a decrease of -76.4%.
  • Egypt: 3.6 million tourists, a decrease of -72%.
  • Morocco: 2.7 million tourists, a decrease of -79%.
  • Tunisia: 2 million tourists, a decrease of -78.7%.
  • Jordan: 917,000 tourists, a decrease of -72.5%.
  • Bahrain: 833,000 tourists, a decrease of -78.1%.
  • Oman: 675,000 tourists, a decrease of -73.1%.
  • Qatar: 646,000 tourists, a decrease of -69.2%.
  • Lebanon: 541,000 tourists, a decrease of -71.5%.
  • Palestine: 172,000 tourists, a decrease of -75%.

A recent survey by a UNWTO expert committee found that expectations for 2021 were mixed.

Almost half of the respondents (45%) predicted better prospects for 2021 compared to last year, while 25% expected similar indicators, and 30% expected worsening results this year compared to 2020.

COVID-19 and implications for world tourism

The general forecasts of the recovery in 2021 by a group of experts are as follows:

  • 50% of teams expect a potential recovery during the current 2021 (of which only 4% expect the start of recovery from the second quarter of this year, 27% expect recovery from the third quarter of this year, while 18% expect the start of recovery from the 4th quarter of 2021).
  • 50% of the team expect a real recovery only in 2022.
  • Most of the team of experts expects an increase in demand for nature tourism and conservation activities, and the recovery of these segments should be faster than other types of tourism.
  • Looking to the future, most experts see the return of international tourism to pre-pandemic levels no earlier than 2023.
  • 43% of the expert group expect the return of international tourism to the norm in 2023, while 41% of them expect that the return of international tourism to the level of 2019 will take place only by 2024.
  • With regard to tourism models, tourist recreation is expected to recover faster than business travel and other tourism structures.
  • As for the regions of the world, the Middle East and Africa are expected to be the fastest to begin recovery, as most experts expect recovery to begin in the third quarter of 2021. For the rest of the world, the recovery date varies, but prevailing expectations will begin no earlier than 2022.

In general, UNWTO scenarios, which expand from 2021 to 2024, indicate that it may take two and a half to four years for international tourism to return to 2019.

At the same time, the gradual introduction of vaccines against COVID-19 is expected to help restore the confidence of tourism consumers and help ease travel restrictions and return to travel during the current and next two years.

As for Egypt, I think that, given the current circumstances, the resumption of tourist traffic to Egypt is expected to begin from Easter in April or May of this year at the latest.

COVID-19 and implications for world tourism

The recovery is expected to be rapid during the next summer season in 2021, provided that the real recovery will begin in the winter season 2021-2022 (ie from October / November 2021).

I personally hope that demand stabilizes and that booking prices for the winter season 2021-2022 will be very good and stable.

I also hope that Egypt, as a tourist destination, will be one of the fastest tourist destinations in terms of revival, as demand is very present, but in conditions of extreme delay or what we call deferred demand.

This will start as soon as the restrictions imposed on COVID-19 disappear, namely the fear of infection, severe travel restrictions and procedures that spoil the pleasure of travel.

Saeed El Batouti, UNWTO Economic Adviser and Member of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, Member of the Board of the German Tourism Association, Professor of International Macroeconomics and Tourism Economics at the University of Frankfurt, Member of the European Travel Commission.

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