In the two years since the global tourism industry came to a halt because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the industry has tried many strategies to return to normality.
The industry used to be among the fastest-growing sectors for over two decades before things took a turn for the worse in early 2020.
Tourism had enjoyed exponential growth since 2000, exceeding what the sector had experienced between 1950 and 2000, according to statistics released by the World Tourism Organization (WTO).
Interestingly, tourism is one of the only sectors that flourished between 2000 and 2020 in developing and developed economies, alike.
Thailand, Mexico, and Turkey welcomed 40-50 million arrivals in 2019, which was not far behind the annual number of visitors to traditional destinations such as France.
After a decidedly-bad 2020 and a slightly better 2021, market players are hopeful to make up for the lost profits in 2022, with new trends emerging in the sector.
Return to normality
As of 2022, most countries are lifting their travel restrictions, giving a ray of hope to hotels and resorts, airlines, and huge networks of local businesses dependent on tourism across the world.
On Jan 25, 2022 the WTO asked the world to stop imposing “blanket restrictions,” arguing that travel bans are ineffective in preventing the spread of new variants at the current stage.
“In fact, by cutting the lifeline of tourism, these restrictions do more harm than good, especially in destinations reliant on international tourists for jobs, economic wellbeing and sustainable change,” reads a post by WTO.
The World Health Organization (WHO) had likewise called for the easing of restrictions on travel in a statement a few days earlier, citing the “economic and social stress,” caused by blanket bans and their ineffectiveness in preventing the disease’s spread.
The tourism sector, as such, is preparing itself for business as usual, though not everywhere and with an occasional glitch.
Although most people have received two or more doses of COVID-19 vaccine, new variants of the virus still make a reappearance from time-to-time, leading to new border closures.
France, for instance, closed its borders to British travellers in early 2022, while China has resumed lockdowns in its tourism hubs such as Shanghai, presumably due to new cases of COVID-19.
People and travel agencies, therefore, prefer to opt for low-budget, shorter holidays for the time being, avoiding long trips needing a great deal of planning ahead, which may come to nothing.
Two years of staying put has bored many, especially those of an adventurous disposition.
Several destinations famous for adventure traveling such as Botswana, Costa Rica, or Fiji have relaxed their travel restrictions to kickstart large parts of their economy.
Thrill-seeking travellers, as such, are making their way to these destinations, secure in the knowledge that they will not face border closures, unless something really serious happens.
The Schengen Area
Those who are not keen on adventure travel, meanwhile, are on the lookout for traditional destinations that offer the regular creature comforts.
The Schengen Area—comprised of 26 nations in continental Europe—seems to be ahead of the world in addressing this market demand.
By the start of 2022, arrivals in Europe had tripled compared to the previous year, showing a 199% jump. The average recovery across the world, meanwhile, was around 100%, according to WTO.
It is believed that arrivals in the Schengen Area account for most of the arrivals in Europe.
The bloc’s more-or-less unified visa policy secures the preplanned entry of many nationalities as long as they are vaccinated and the COVID-19 situation is under control.