International tourism on way to full recovery, says UN agency

Giraffe browsing at the Nairobi National Park, Nairobi. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

International tourism continues to show signs of recovery from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, a report by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) shows.

UNWTO says there was a strong rebound in the first five months of this year, with almost 250 million international arrivals recorded.

This is compared to 77 million arrivals from January to May 2021, meaning the sector has recovered by almost half (46 per cent) of the pre-pandemic levels.

“The recovery of tourism has gathered pace in many parts of the world, weathering the challenges standing in its way,” said UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili.

At the same time, he also advised caution in view of the “economic headwinds and geopolitical challenges that could impact the sector in the remainder of 2022 and beyond.”

In Africa and the Middle East, arrivals could reach 50 per cent to 70 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.

Europe welcomed more than four times as many international arrivals as in the first five months of 2021 (+350 per cent), boosted by strong intra-regional demand and the removal of all travel restrictions in a number of countries.

The region particularly saw robust performance in April (+458 per cent), reflecting a busy Easter period. In the Americas, arrivals more than doubled (+112 per cent).

Gathered pace

However, the strong rebound is measured against weak results in 2021 and arrivals remain overall 36 per cent and 40 per cent below 2019 levels in both regions respectively.

The recovery of tourism has gathered pace in many parts of the world, weathering the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The same pattern is seen across other regions.

The strong growth in the Middle East (+157 per cent) and Africa (+156 per cent) remained 54 per cent and 50 per cent below 2019 levels respectively, and Asia and the Pacific almost doubled arrivals (+94 per cent), though numbers were 90 per cent below 2019 as some borders remained closed to non-essential travel.

In Kenya, the easing of restrictions last year can be seen in improved results for April and May.

Local tourism expert and executive officer of the Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers (KAHC) Coast Branch Sam Ikwaye said African states should encourage more of intra-Africa travels to aid the sector’s full recovery.

‘’The African market is a huge one with lots of potential. However, there is very little intra-Africa travel. Another key stumbling block is lack of efficient air travel in the continent, which makes it expensive and time-consuming to connect,” said Mr Ikwaye.