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Tourism recovery starts to peak as more countries ease travel restrictions

Chairperson of the Tourism KZN Board, Sthembiso Madlala , Lindiwe Rakharebe, CEO of Durban ICC and Mayor: Mxolisi Kaunda along with the KZN Tourism volunteers, welcome visitors to the 2022 African Tourism Indaba. Picture: Shelley Kjonstad/African News Agency (ANA)

Chairperson of the Tourism KZN Board, Sthembiso Madlala , Lindiwe Rakharebe, CEO of Durban ICC and Mayor: Mxolisi Kaunda along with the KZN Tourism volunteers, welcome visitors to the 2022 African Tourism Indaba. Picture: Shelley Kjonstad/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Jun 7, 2022

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As more countries drop their entry restrictions, tourist recovery numbers are seeing an exponential rise.

This is according to the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, showing that international tourism saw a 182 percent year-on-year increase in January-March 2022.

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Destinations worldwide have thus far welcomed an estimated 117 million international arrivals, compared to 41 million in quarter one of 2021.

UNWTO data showed that during the first quarter of 2022, Europe welcomed almost four times as many international arrivals as in Q1 of 2021.

The Americas saw the second largest growth, with arrivals more than doubled (+117 percent) in the same three months.

However, arrivals in Europe and the Americas were still 43 percent and 46 percent below 2019 levels, respectively.

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The good news is that although international tourism remains 61 percent below 2019 levels, the sector’s gradual recovery is expected to continue throughout 2022 as more destinations ease or lift travel restrictions.

The bad news includes the challenging economic environment coupled with the military offensive of the Russian Federation in Ukraine, which pose a downside risk to the ongoing recovery of international tourism.

The conflict is having major economic repercussions globally, exacerbating already high oil prices and overall inflation and disrupting international supply chains, which results in higher transport and accommodation costs for the tourism sector, according to the UNWTO.

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But things are slowly starting to look up.

For the first time since the start of the pandemic, the index returned to levels of 2019, reflecting rising optimism among tourism experts worldwide.

International tourist arrivals are now expected to reach 55 percent to 70 percent of 2019 levels in 2022, depending on several circumstances, including which destinations continue to lift travel restrictions, the evolution of the war in Ukraine, and possible new outbreaks of coronavirus and global economic conditions.

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