by MTHULISI SIBANDA
JOHANNESBURG – AFRICA recorded a 51-percent growth in tourism in January, as the industry enjoyed a strong start to 2022.
Nonetheless, the war between Ukraine and Russia presents more uncertainties to the sector.
Based on the latest data available from the World Tourism Organisation (WTO), global international tourist arrivals more than doubled (+130 percent) in January 2022 compared to that month in 2021.
The 18 million more visitors recorded worldwide in the first month of this year equals the total increase for the whole of 2021.
While these figures confirm the positive trend already underway last year, the pace of recovery in January was impacted by the emergences of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 and the re-introduction of travel restrictions in several destinations.
Following the 71 percent decline of 2021, international arrivals in January 2022 remained 67 percent below pre-pandemic levels.
Meanwhile, the Middle East saw growth of 89 percent in January 2022 over 2021.
The region and Africa however saw a drop of 63 percent and 69 percent respectively compared to 2019, pre-pandemic.
Europe and Americas performed the strongest.
All regions enjoyed a significant rebound in January 2022.
Europe (+199 percent) and the Americas (+97 percent) continued to post the strongest results, with international arrivals still around half pre-pandemic levels (-53 percent and -52 percent, respectively).
The Russian invasion of Ukraine adds pressure to existing economic uncertainties, coupled with many COVID-related travel restrictions still in place.
“Overall confidence could be affected and hamper the recovery of tourism,” WTO stated.
The shutdown of Ukrainian and Russian airspace, as well as the ban on Russian carriers by many European countries is impacting intra-European travel.
The resultant detours in long-haul flights between Europe and East Asia translate into longer flights and higher costs.
The two warring countries accounted for a combined 3 percent of global spending on international tourism in 2020.
WTO fears that at least US$ 14 billion in global tourism receipts could be lost if this conflict in Eurasia is prolonged.
– CAJ News