By Justin Salani
The global tourism industry which has been on a fluctuating growth trajectory since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic experienced a 4 percent (4%) upturn in 2021 compared to 2020, but this still remains far below the pre-pandemic levels.
According to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation(UNWTO), international tourist arrivals were still 72% below the pre-pandemic year of 2019, and this follows on from 2020, the worst year on record for tourism; when international arrivals decreased by 73 percent (73%). The preliminary report released by the UNWTO also revealed that the pace of recovery remains low and uneven across world regions.
In 2021, Africa recorded a 12 percent (12%) increase in arrivals compared to 2020, although the figure is still 74 percent (74%) below the pre-pandemic year of 2019. In Asia and the Pacific, arrivals were still 94 percent (94%) below the 2019 level.
“Europe and America recorded the strongest results in 2021 compared to 2020 (+19% and +17% respectively), but still both 63% below pre-pandemic levels. The Caribbean saw the best performance (+63% above 2020, although 37% below 2019), with some destinations coming close to, or exceeding pre-pandemic levels.
“North America (+17%) and Central Eastern Europe (+18%) also climbed above 2020 levels. Africa saw a 12% increase in arrivals in 2021 compared to 2020, though this is still 74% below 2019. Southern Mediterranean Europe (+57%) and Central America (+54%) also enjoyed a significant rebound but remain 54% and 56% down on 2019 levels respectively.
“In the Middle East arrivals declined 24% compared to 2020 and 79% over 2019. In Asia and the Pacific arrivals were still 65% below 2020 levels and 94% when compared to pre-pandemic values as many destinations remained closed to non-essential travel,” said UNWTO
Interestingly, 2022 is seen as a promising year for the tourism sector. According to the UNTWO Panel of Experts, most tourism professionals (61%) see better prospects for 2022 and 58 percent expect a rebound. UNWTO scenarios also indicate that international tourist arrivals could grow by 30% to 78% in 2022 compared to 2021.
Working towards the recovery of the industry requires a collective effort from all stakeholders as the pandemic is still with us. Lifting of travel restrictions, a rapid vaccination rollout and dissemination of clearer information on travel protocols have been identified as the main driving factors for the recovery of the tourism industry.
Meanwhile, the local tourism drive #Zimbho has managed to bear fresh fruits as domestic tourism last year improved considerably, according to the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority(ZTA). This is good news for the industry since a boom in domestic tourism is crucial in cushioning the sector which has been suffering from low international tourist arrivals.
ZTA Acting Chief Executive Officer, Givemore Chidzidzi quoted by the national broadcaster, ZBC said there was an influx of local tourists to major resorts and destinations especially during the festive season.
“We can attest to the fact that indeed there was an influx of local tourists to major resorts and destinations especially during the festive season. There is no doubt that our campaigns helped to achieve this feat but also the travel bans caused by the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in many opting to experience their own country, and the festive season really manifested that feat,” said ZTA acting CEO.
The challenges facing the industry have the potential to disrupt wildlife conservation efforts as ecological tourism hospitality services augment trophy hunting revenue, and enable conservancies to run their day-to-day business. There is a need to encourage many domestic recreational travelers to visit safari areas and contribute to wildlife conservation through recreational spending.