There is optimism in the air that year 2022 will deliver upbeat travel experiences. However, analysts expect a full recovery may take another one year to be at the pre-2019 levels.
The speedy revival of global travel has been facilitated by the stringent vaccination drive and adherence to Covid protocol by the public. The timely interventions of various governments in lifting travel restrictions and seamless information updates have helped the recovery of international travel immeasurably, affirm experts.
Outlook for 2022 and 2023
The road map for revival is evident in the Global Travel Market 2022-2026 report that predicted the market to grow by $451.19 billion during 2022-2026, with an expected annual growth rate of 13.86 per cent.
Julia Simpson, the World Travel and Tourism Council’s (WTTC) chief executive is on record that the year 2022 will witness a sharp recovery if the governments continue to scrap restrictions on travel clamped in the wake of Covid.
Covid-19 at the endemic stage
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) shared its conclusion that Covid-19 is in the “endemic stage” and many countries are removing the curbs to welcome travellers.
The IATA studied 50 major air travel markets and noted that vaccinated travellers are most welcome in top destinations.
The global vaccination campaign and easing of curbs have brightened the prospect of creating 58 million new jobs, up by 21.5 per cent in 2020.
Data suggest within the first 50 days of 2022, many high-value destinations have been opened for full access. The World Travel and Tourism Council’s (WTTC) data suggest the sector will contribute $8.6 trillion to the global economy in 2022 and only a 6.4 per cent gap is left to cover the pre-pandemic levels.
The fast recovering global travel sector will also generate $8.6 trillion in revenue internationally.
Now let us take a quick view of the important travel markets to open already. The study by RateGain Travel Technologies, a leading SaaS provider on post-Covid global travel scenarios noted that the bulk of the top travel markets have amassed huge bookings and broke the lull observed in January 2022 when the Omicron virus appeared. The two exceptions were China and Russia.
Hong Kong, India and Europe
On Hong Kong, the study said opening of borders for 9 countries has made it clear that full recovery is in cards.
India resumed international travel on March 27. European countries such as France, Italy, and Spain showed dramatic improvement in travel bookings with a 500 per cent jump vis a vis the first quarter of 2021. So is Japan.
Germany and UK showed a 150 per cent increase in bookings. Destinations like India, Mexico, the US, and UAE showed a double-digit growth compared to the dormant 2021. The above markets had already recovered 80 per cent of pre-pandemic levels in February 2021. That is why the year on year growth appears a tad low.
The spread of Omicron in early 2022 disturbed travel bookings in Europe but that lull has been overcome by bumper bookings in February. No wonder, Italy, Spain, Germany, and France had a 30 per cent jump in the month-on-month travel bookings bridging the deficit in January.
Travel with precautions
The healthy revival of global travel also stems from the sense of acceptance among people that they have to live with the twists and turns of Covid-19 and keep precautions to manage its impact. Now, look at the fully open destinations.
It scrapped the Test & Go scheme with effect from May 1 allowing fully vaccinated tourists to enter the country without a PCR test. They are free to travel around the country on arrival without any curbs.
The advisory suggests vaccinated travellers need to test themselves using rapid antigen test kits, and if found positive treatment must be covered under their insurance policy or foot the medical bill themselves.
But, visitors are required to apply for the Thailand Pass before arrival after submitting relevant documents such as vaccination certificates and proof of insurance.
Singapore declared open to all vaccinated travellers from April 1. All vaccinated travellers are allowed in Singapore from April 26 via air or sea and are exempt from the pre-departure test. Singapore also scrapped all contact tracing measures. However, the rule of showing proof of vaccination at events, nightclubs, and F&B outlets with more than 500 attendees will continue.
Australia reopened its borders to fully vaccinated travellers on February 21 and ended the pre-departure testing requirement from April 18. But entry into the country will require travellers to provide proof of double vaccination against Covid-19.
The Czech Republic lifted Covid curbs from April 9 that included travel restrictions for foreign and Czech citizens. Travellers need not fill out any arrival form or proof of vaccination or report the previous infection to enter the country.
However, transport providers of travellers have to ensure safety protocols and maintain conducive transport carriers including data on tests and vaccinations before boarding.
South Africa, opened its borders for fully vaccinated travellers on March 22. It removed the need to show a negative Covid-19 test along with many other Covid-19 curbs.
Wearing a mask is not strict in public outdoor spaces, and SA allowed 50 per cent occupancy at events for vaccinated people and those negative on a PCR test.
All travellers can enter Austria without any Covid-19 tests provided they can show proof of vaccination or a certificate of recovery from the pandemic. A negative Covid-19 test result is required only from unvaccinated travellers. After the entry, there will be no demand to show proof of vaccination, recovery, or test result anywhere else.
On April 16, the capital Vienna joined the rest of Austria by lifting the restrictions. Masks are mandatory on public transport, supermarkets, and pharmacies. But no compulsion exists to wear masks in indoor places including museums.
Cambodia, known ASEAN’s most open destination opened up for all fully vaccinated travellers will and ended compulsory Covid-19 tests and quarantine from March 17. It started Visa on arrival program for all passengers reaching by land, air, and waterways.
On March 4, the country scrapped all Cov-d-19 based travel requirements, and exempted fully vaccinated international travellers from any negative test for entering the country.
The Maldives also relaxed the mask mandate allowing visitors to relish the country’s fresh air and experience the wide array of unique experiences on this fantastic island.
UAE ended PCR tests mandate for fully vaccinated visitors. The relaxed guidelines allow vaccinated visitors to show a vaccine certificate with an approved QR code. Unvaccinated travellers can also enter the country but they have to submit
negative pre-arrival PCR test result within 48 hours.
UAE also dropped social distancing in public places. However, masks are mandatory in public indoor spaces and optional outdoors.
From March 18, both vaccinated and unvaccinated travellers can visit England without Covid-19 tests, quarantining, or a UK passenger locator form. Earlier, quarantine exemption applied only to fully vaccinated travellers.
Ireland declared that all international travellers can visit the country without any Covid-19 restrictions with effect from March 6. Travellers need not show any proof of vaccination or recovery from Covid 10 and are exempted from filing any passenger locator form.
However, travellers going to Northern Ireland after a stay in Ireland will have to follow the travel requirements of the UK government.
Switzerland removed many pandemic-related restrictions from February 17 noting that the Omicron wave did not cause mass hospitalisations. The new policy on opening the country removed to test or quarantine mandates for all incoming visitors.
Emerging travel trends
In a study on revival and travel trends, Deloitte noted that leisure travel is showing a high demand scenario. Among the trends in 2022, older travellers may express reluctance while high-income travellers will be the frontline fliers compared to lower-income brackets.