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UNWTO hails return of tourism traffic to 60% of pre-pandemic levels – BusinessMirror

THE United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) emphasized the importance of a whole-government approach to reform tourism, along with enhancing public and private partnerships.

“Tourism can only deliver on its unique power to provide opportunity and drive sustainable and inclusive growth if it is given practical and economic support,” the organization said in its newly released World Tourism Day 2022 Report “Rethinking Tourism: From Crisis to Transformation.”

The report was presented at the global day of observation of World Tourism Day 2022, in Bali, and carried the theme “Rethinking Tourism.”

In a news statement, UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili stressed the unique opportunity presented to tourism to pause, reflect and recalibrate. He said: “The restart of tourism everywhere brings hope. It is the ultimate cross cutting and people-to-people sector. It touches on almost everything we do—and everything we care about. Tourism’s potential is now recognized more widely than ever. It’s up to us to deliver on this potential.”

There is reason to celebrate, as per the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, which indicated that international tourism from January to July this year, is now back to 60 percent of pre-pandemic levels.

Europe, Middle East lead the way

AN estimated 474 million tourists traveled internationally over the period, compared to the 175 million in the same period in 2021, with Europe and the Middle East accounting for the bulk of travelers.

Europe welcomed 309 million international tourists, and accounted for 65 percent of the total travelers during the first seven months of the year. Tourists from the United States, said the UNWTO, boosted intra-regional travel.

The same was true for the Middle East, which recorded an almost four times year-on-year growth, or 287 percent in January to July 2022, “boosted by the extraordinary results posted by Saudi Arabia [+ 121 percent] following the Hajj pilgrimage.”

Arrivals in the America and Africa also jumped by 103 percent and 171 percent, representing 65 percent and 60 percent of pre-pandemic levels, respectively. Tourists in the Asia-Pacific region grew by 165 percent, although the volumes were still 86 percent below 2019 levels due to the continued closure of some markets to non-essential travel.

Continued promotions overseas cited

IN the Philippines, tourism stakeholders continue to be amazed at the quick recovery of most of the country’s key markets, except for China. Data from the Department of Tourism (DOT) showed foreign tourist arrivals reaching 1.46 million from February 10, when the country eased border restrictions to vaccinated travelers, to September 12, 2022.

Of the total arrivals, 1.01 million were foreign passport-holders, accounting  for almost 70 percent of total, while 448,383 were overseas Filipinos. The top 10 foreign markets so far were: the US at 278,696; followed by South Korea at 184,604; Australia 64,961;  Canada 60,060; the UK 56,676; Japan 50,770; India 28,092; Singapore 26,458; Vietnam 24,167; and Malaysia 22,816.

Speaking in Filipino, Jose C. Clemente III, president of the Tourism Congress of the Philippines said in a radio interview on Wednesday, “The DOT was correct in continuing to promote the country abroad even during the pandemic. So when we opened up, they [foreign tourists] were all excited to come here.” He revised his forecast for year-end arrivals to possibly reach 2 million.

Cautious optimism

Ironically, it was the DOT’s continued promotions abroad that caught the ire of Senator Imee Marcos last year, who believed the marketing budget would be put to better use in helping tourism stakeholders struggling to survive the pandemic. This led to the Senate cutting the DOT’s budget this year by P1 billion from the original P3.57 billion approved by the Department of Budget and Management under the National Expenditure Program.

Prospects for the remainder of the year are cautiously optimistic. Although above-average performance is expected, almost half (47 percent) of UNWTO’s tourism experts see positive prospects for the period September-December 2022, while 24 percent expect no particular change, and 28 percent consider it could be worse. Experts also seem confident about 2023, as 65 percent see better tourism performance than in 2022.

However, the experts noted, “The economic environment continues to be the main factor weighing on the recovery of international tourism. Rising inflation and the spike in oil prices results in higher transport and accommodation costs, while putting consumer purchasing power and savings under pressure.”

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