Africa tourism

International tourism on the way to full recovery, says UN agency

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

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

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

This figure compares to 77 million arrivals from January to May 2021, meaning the sector has recovered almost half (46%) of pre-pandemic levels.

“Tourism recovery has gained momentum in many parts of the world, overcoming the challenges that stood in its way,” said UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili.

At the same time, he also advised caution given 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 50-70% of pre-pandemic levels.

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

The region notably recorded a strong performance in April (+458%), reflecting a busy Easter period. In the Americas, arrivals more than doubled (+112%).

Gathered rhythm

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

The recovery of tourism has accelerated in many parts of the world, overcoming the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The same pattern is observed in other regions.

Strong growth in the Middle East (+157%) and Africa (+156%) remained 54% and 50% below 2019 levels respectively, and Asia and the Pacific nearly doubled arrivals (+94 %), although the figures were 90% lower than in 2019, as some borders remained closed to non-essential travel.

In Kenya, the easing of restrictions last year translates into better results for April and May.

Sam Ikwaye, a local tourism expert and executive director of the Coastal Branch of the Kenya Association of Hoteliers and Caterers (KAHC), said African states should encourage more intra-African travel to help the sector fully recover.

”The African market is huge with a lot of potential. However, there is very little intra-African travel. Another major stumbling block is the lack of efficient air transport on the mainland, which makes connecting flights expensive and time-consuming,” Mr. Ikwaye said.