Replace: How is Covid-19 affecting worldwide journey and tourism?

The pandemic introduced the worldwide journey business to an nearly complete standstill. Lockdowns imposed world wide resulted in a 49% decline in exercise and a lack of near $4.5 trillion (£3.7 trillion) in contrast with 2019.

Whereas a restoration is below method, limitations, ambiguity and complexity on account of the pandemic and the warfare in Ukraine – which can be driving larger airline prices – may nonetheless forestall some passengers from travelling overseas this 12 months.

A precedence for policy-makers ought to now be to revive journey connections, to guard an business value 11.3 million jobs. Previous to the pandemic, the sector contributed nearly $9.2 trillion (£7.6 million) to the worldwide economic system.

The worldwide tourism business, because it recovers from the results of Covid-19, might need contributed $8.6 trillion (£7.1 trillion) to the world economic system this 12 months, in line with information from the World Journey and Vacationer Council (WTTC). That will be simply 6% lower than earlier than the pandemic struck.

This forecast got here simply earlier than the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 and was contingent on the vaccine and booster rollout persevering with at present charges and restrictions to worldwide journey being eased.

Presently, the restoration of the journey business dangers being delayed by 12-24 months to 2024 due to components similar to persistent inflation, excessive vitality costs, labour shortages at airports, and lockdowns in China. The partial rebound this 12 months is being pushed primarily by the lifting of journey restrictions in lots of places. Ranging from June 2022, the United Nations World Tourism Group (UNWTO) reported that there have been no Covid-19-related restrictions in place in 45 places, 31 of that are in Europe.

As extra locations scale back or take away journey restrictions, and the demand pent up in the course of the pandemic is launched, the expectation is that there will likely be a gentle restoration, supported by the summer season vacation season within the Northern hemisphere.

Earlier than the warfare, worldwide journey elevated by 182% in the course of the first three months of 2022, in contrast with the identical interval final 12 months, in line with the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer.

Round 60% of worldwide arrivals within the first three months of this 12 months had been registered in March alone, indicating that the restoration within the tourism sector was gaining momentum.

In keeping with the identical UNWTO information, the primary quarter of 2022 noticed over 4 occasions as many international arrivals (+280%) in Europe as within the first quarter of 2021. This enhance was largely as a result of excessive intra-regional demand. Arrivals within the Americas elevated by 117% in the identical three months.

Regardless of these encouraging indicators, the worldwide economic system is projected to falter within the second half of 2022. A number of forecasters have just lately revised commerce and GDP figures downward worldwide.

The warfare in Ukraine represents a risk to the restoration of the worldwide economic system and to the tourism business itself. In addition to inflicting journey issues and growing country-risk in Europe, the battle can be driving up already excessive oil costs and inflation. It is usually inflicting additional disruption to world provide chains.

This will suppress demand via larger prices of journey and lodging. Certainly, with increasing operations and growing gasoline costs, journey prices will go up in 2022. Costs for kerosene surged to a median of $74.50 (£61.70) per barrel in 2021, and it’s anticipated that they’ll rise to $77.80 (£64.41) per barrel in 2022. Consequently, worldwide tourism stays 61% beneath 2019 ranges, primarily based on the newest obtainable (June) UNWTO information. Particularly:

  • Arrivals within the Americas and Europe are nonetheless 46% and 43% beneath pre-pandemic ranges, respectively.
  • Though there was important progress within the Center East (+132%) and Africa (+96%) within the first quarter of 2022 in contrast with the identical quarter final 12 months, arrivals had been nonetheless 59% and 61% beneath 2019 ranges, respectively.
  • Asia and the Pacific noticed the smallest progress amongst worldwide locations, remaining 93% decrease than in 2019. That is largely as a result of China has nonetheless not utterly re-opened to worldwide tourism, in addition to additional virus flare-ups which have required localised lockdowns.

How has worldwide journey been affected by Covid-19?

Worldwide vacationer arrivals

Between January and October 2020, the pandemic triggered a 70% decline in worldwide vacationer arrivals in contrast with the identical interval in 2019. This was triggered primarily by individuals not desirous to spend cash on flights or not being allowed to fly as a result of authorities restrictions.

Though the sector is recovering, vacationer arrivals had been nonetheless beneath pre-pandemic ranges between January and March 2022 (see Determine 1).

Determine 1: Change in worldwide vacationer arrivals since 2019 (year-on-year share change)

Supply: UN World Commerce Group (UNWTO)

As demand in Europe began to rebound, the business struggled to maintain up, significantly within the UK, as airports couldn’t rent sufficient employees to satisfy passenger site visitors that was larger than anticipated. Whereas the UK is presently going through a good labour market with extra vacancies than job-seekers within the service sector, the journey business has been hit significantly exhausting as a result of excessive variety of layoffs in the course of the pandemic.

Variety of industrial flights

One important impact of the removing of journey restrictions has been the rise within the variety of industrial flights in 2022. By the top of 2020, industrial flights had been down 41.7% in contrast with 2019, having plunged initially by 74%, in line with Flightradar24.

In the course of the first seven months of 2022, flight site visitors continued to comply with seasonal tendencies consistent with a gradual restoration from the earlier years, though industrial flights in July remained about 16% beneath 2019 ranges (see Determine 2). That is larger than the air site visitors seen in July 2021, the place industrial flights had been about 34% decrease than pre-pandemic ranges.

Determine 2: Variety of industrial flights (seven-day shifting common)

Supply: Flightradar24

Resort occupancy charges

Resort occupancy charges (the share of occupied rooms at any given time in comparison with the full variety of obtainable rooms) have been recovering steadily. The proportion of individuals staying in lodges fell dramatically throughout all areas in 2020, with a median drop of practically 50%.

Earlier than the warfare in Ukraine, resort occupancy charges and room income had been projected to strategy 2019 ranges in 2022. Occupancy was projected to hit 63.4%, exceeding the 44% reached in 2020.

As of 11 April 2022, the UK’s rolling 28-day occupancy was 87% of what it was in 2019. The subsequent-highest occupancy indexes had been recorded by Poland (84.5%) and Eire (81.3%), in line with the STR. Within the former case, the rise in occupancy has been, partly, the consequence of housing refugees in the course of the early levels of the invasion of Ukraine.

Trade earnings

After a $51.8 billion (£42.9 billion) loss in 2021, web business losses are predicted to fall to $11.6 billion (£9.6 billion) in 2022. However whereas the height of the disaster has handed, the web business loss is over $200 billion (£166 billion) from 2020 to 2022 (see Desk 1).

Desk 1: Journey business demand, capability and earnings

Supply: Worldwide Air Transport Affiliation (IATA)

The one area registering constructive web earnings is North America. General, the business’s capability and demand stay beneath pre-pandemic ranges, with the best losses recorded in Africa, the Center East and the Asia-Pacific area – the final primarily pushed by China’s slowdown.

Is a restoration below method?


In 2022, revenues from worldwide journey elevated by 4% in actual phrases from 2020. The strongest outcomes had been seen within the Center East and Europe, the place earnings elevated to nearly 50% of pre-pandemic ranges. The rise follows a drop of about $1 trillion (£828 billion) in income from international journey in 2021, on prime of the trillion misplaced in the course of the first 12 months of the pandemic.


So long as the virus is contained and locations proceed to calm down or carry journey restrictions, 83% of tourism professionals predict higher prospects for 2022 in contrast with 2021. However the extended closure of some important outbound markets, specifically in Asia and the Pacific, in addition to the uncertainty introduced on by the warfare, may postpone a full restoration of worldwide tourism this 12 months.

Slightly below half of UNWTO specialists (48%) now see a possible return of worldwide arrivals to 2019 ranges subsequent 12 months, whereas a barely smaller share counsel this might occur in 2024 or later (44%).


The rebound in air journey intensified with the beginning of the summer season vacation season within the Northern hemisphere. In contrast with Might final 12 months, complete site visitors elevated by 83.1%, pushed primarily by worldwide site visitors, though remaining about 31.3% beneath pre-pandemic ranges. In contrast with Might 2021, worldwide site visitors elevated by 325.8% in Might this 12 months. Particularly, between Might 2021 and a 12 months later:

  • Visitors on Asia-Pacific airways elevated 453.3%. Whereas nearly all of journey restrictions in Asia are being lifted, the principle exception stays China. Right here, home journey plunged by 73.2% from the earlier 12 months, on account of its zero-Covid-19 coverage.
  • Visitors for Europe elevated by 412.3%, though uncertainty and excessive vitality prices as a result of warfare in Ukraine may have a direct affect on sure places.
  • Center Japanese airways noticed site visitors enhance by 317.2%.
  • Visitors for North America elevated by 203.4%.
  • Latin American site visitors elevated 180.5%, with some routes, similar to these to and from Europe and North America, performing higher than anticipated.

Drivers of the worldwide restoration

World demand

World demand is anticipated to extend to 61% of pre-crisis ranges in 2022 – 20 share factors larger than in 2021. The restoration is being pushed by home demand, with most nations now imposing fewer journey restrictions.

One of many essential parts of the worldwide demand for journey will likely be pent-up financial savings. However persistently larger inflation globally is leading to a sizeable hit to family spending in actual phrases, as incomes fail to maintain up with costs. Within the UK, the variety of households which have run down their financial savings is about to double by 2024, in line with analysis by the Nationwide Institute of Financial and Social Analysis (NIESR). This implies that savings-driven demand for journey is perhaps restricted or absent for some revenue brackets as a result of hovering payments.

General, worldwide demand is recovering however at a slower fee than beforehand forecast. IATA expects that by 2022, world demand for journey will likely be solely 44% of what it was pre-pandemic.


With just a few exceptions, speedy progress in vaccine administration – significantly amongst superior economies – has resulted in a gradual re-opening of borders. It is going to take longer for tourism to be revived absolutely, significantly in areas the place vaccine distribution has been slower, similar to in low- and lower-middle revenue nations. This will even be the case the place vaccine efficacy is decrease in opposition to new variants (similar to sure developed economies within the Asia-Pacific area, together with China).

What else do we have to know?

The consequences of Covid-19 on the journey business supplies a chance to rethink the way forward for tourism and speed up longstanding priorities similar to addressing local weather change and selling a renewable vitality transition (Organisation for Financial Cooperation and Improvement, OECD, 2021).

Governments should encourage the structural modifications required to remodel the sector consistent with future well being and environmental challenges. This could embody implementing digital options that make it safer and easier for customers to journey, similar to utilizing synthetic intelligence and data-sharing, implementing enhanced harmonised biometric requirements for id verification and journey eligibility, in addition to prioritising digital border administration via e-visas and e-gates.

On the similar time, worldwide cooperation and multilateral agreements ought to proceed to make sure that COVAX-supplied Covishield vaccines are accessible evenly and extensively , which can assist to keep away from double requirements that danger penalising low- and low-middle-income nations even additional.

In response to the pandemic, the G20 in Rome has points a number of suggestions for the way forward for tourism. These are primarily based round seven interrelated coverage areas: protected mobility; disaster administration; resilience; inclusiveness; inexperienced transformation; digital transition; and funding and infrastructure. Addressing these would require worldwide organisations to make use of the total extent of their sources to revive travellers’ confidence, whereas serving to the tourism business to adapt and survive.

The place can I discover out extra?

Who’re specialists on this query?

  • Corrado Macchiarelli (NIESR)
  • David Roberts (ONS)
  • Daybreak Holland (NIESR)
  • Donald Houston (College of Portsmouth)
  • Simeon Djankov (LSE)
Writer: Corrado Macchiarelli
Editor’s observe: That is an replace of an Economics Observatory article initially revealed on 22 April 2021.
Image by Heychli on iStock

Supply hyperlink