International arrivals will not return to their pre-pandemic level before 2024. This year, however, it will already be possible to exploit certain trends in business terms. Trade fairs such as BIT are crucial for this.
2021 closed with contradictory signals. On the one hand, a recovering economy, boosted by the pace of vaccination campaigns, although threatened by risks such as rising inflation and disruptions in supply chains. On the other, the emergence of new Covid variants and continuing restrictions on activities and travel in several countries. So what are the prospects for the tourism industry?
International arrivals: return to pre-pandemic levels expected by 2024
According to the most recent UNWTO Barometer (18 January 2022), international arrivals in 2021 grew by 4% to 415 million compared to 400 million in 2020, but still remain far below pre-pandemic levels. The Caribbean is the best performing region, up 63% year-on-year, followed by Mediterranean Europe (+57%) and Central America (+54%). According to the organisation's expert panel, the return of international arrivals to pre-pandemic levels will not occur before 2024.
Sustainability, digital transformation, workation and the return of big-time travel: the most relevant trends
However, there are a number of emerging trends that can be exploited this year to generate new business opportunities. One is undoubtedly sustainable tourism, which responds to travellers' need for a new harmony with nature and in which technological innovation plays a key role. As Euromonitor points out, digital transformation - and artificial intelligence in particular - can help prevent the phenomenon of overtourism, offering travellers a greater perception of safety, including health safety.
According to research carried out by Regiondo, which specialises in the sector, the low incidence of Covid cases will continue to be one of the main criteria for choosing a destination in 2022. But not only that: a second phenomenon that will become consolidated is workation, a stay in which people continue to work away from home, as many of us have become accustomed to doing during the emergency. In response, there is also a resurgence of “grand” travel, in “once in a lifetime” destinations or accessible luxury formats.
In this complex scenario, travel agents, among other stakeholders, are once again central, while events rich in content and experts such as BIT 2022, to be held at fieramilanocity from 10 to 12 April, remain fundamental for providing guidance.