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DUBAI: Global tourism has faced the brunt of natural and man-made events, one after another. However, it has the potential to hit $8.6 trillion in 2022, according to an industry survey.

Travel and tourism contributed 21.7% to global gross domestic product in 2021 after falling sharply in 2020 due to COVID-19, according to a joint survey by the World Travel & Tourism Council and Oxford Economics. According to the travel body, there is huge potential for tourism growth this year.

Even as global tourism showed strong signs of recovery in January 2022 after being reeling from COVID-related restrictions, the Russian invasion of Ukraine added to the uncertainty, the World Tourism Organization said. of the United Nations in a report.

The UN report indicates that international tourist arrivals worldwide more than doubled in January 2022, increasing by 130% compared to January 2021. Around 18 million additional tourists were recorded worldwide in March this year.

Despite these figures reflecting a positive trend, the recovery has stalled indefinitely in the wake of Omicron and travel restrictions in several destinations. In January 2022, international arrivals remained 67% below pre-pandemic levels after falling 71% in 2021, according to the UN report.

During the same month, all regions performed significantly better than the corresponding month in 2021. Although international arrivals were around half of pre-pandemic levels, Europe and the Americas continued to grow. record the highest turnout.

Changing the dynamics of travel

Although European arrivals increased by 199% and the Americas by 97%, international arrivals remained below pre-pandemic levels and fell by 53% and 52%, respectively, the UNWTO explained.

Tourist arrivals in the Middle East increased by 89% and in Africa by 51% in January 2022 compared to January 2022.

By the end of March, more than 10 COVID-restricted destinations had opened and a growing number of places were easing or lifting travel restrictions; it made it possible to meet pent-up demand.

However, the war against Ukraine has severely shaken the confidence of world travelers and posed challenges to the global economy. As a result, international travel is under threat, jeopardizing the global economy, UNWTO said.

As US and Asian source markets have eased restrictions, they could be particularly affected in travel to Europe, as they have historically been more risk averse.

Many European countries have banned Russian carriers, which has affected intra-European travel. It has also increased the duration and cost of flights between Europe and East Asia due to detours, the report adds.

Sojern Middle East and Africa Managing Director Stewart Smith

In 2020, Russia and Ukraine accounted for 3% of global tourism spending. The UNWTO estimated that at least SR55.5 billion ($14 billion) in global tourism revenue would be lost if the conflict continued.

In an UNWTO assessment of the impact of the war, he said that “although it is early to assess the impact on international tourism, the Russian Federation’s military offensive on Ukraine represents a downside risk that could delay a still weak and uneven recovery.” international tourism, despite the growing number of destinations easing restrictions.

On the road to recovery

Sojern Middle East and Africa managing director Stewart Smith said the company has observed neighboring Eastern European countries providing aid and support to Ukraine rather than promoting their destinations to tourists.

Sojern, a digital marketing platform that UNWTO and the Pacific Asia Travel Association rely on for research on the recovery of travel and tourism, said searches for flights to Asia-Pacific have plummeted. by 12% in 2022 compared to 2019.

Smith said many destinations don’t want to miss tourism opportunities during their peak season. Consequently, they continued to invest in supporting tourism, although less than usual.

Through cooperative marketing, Sojern has partnered with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and demonstrated its commitment to supporting Abu Dhabi properties.

This year, the company saw a 2,000% increase in travel intentions from Oceania, particularly Australia and New Zealand. However, there were more travel restrictions in this region than today, and it was much more difficult to travel to Europe from Oceania.

According to data from Sojern, searches for flights in Europe, the Middle East and Africa increased by 46% in 2022 compared to pre-pandemic levels in 2019. Additionally, searches for flights a year on the other to Europe increased by more than 200% in March. 2022 than they were this time last year, Sojern reported.

While the dispute has led to uncertainty, hotel and flight bookings in the first quarter of 2022 and from April showed continued promise.

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