The general attitude is that people all over the world are fed up with travel restrictions, and governments are trying to restart stagnant economies. It seems like authorities globally are accepting that covid-19 is now a manageable part of everyday life - like the common flu.
The New York Times reported that there has been a significant increase in travel bookings for the upcoming spring and summer holidays, as noted by travel agents and operators. Industry experts are projecting that US travel and tourism will reach pre-pandemic levels this year, which could potentially contribute $2 trillion to the U.S. economy.
There are also projections that bookings over the Easter holiday period could potentially spike by 130 percent compared with last year.
“This is because infection rates are subsiding and travellers continue to benefit from the protection offered by the vaccine and boosters,” as stated by CEO and president of the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC).
Trends show that even though there is much uncertainty with the direction of the pandemic, and ever changing policies on mask mandates and testing requirements for travel, the tourist industry can see a big demand from travellers that are planning to take big bucket list trips this year, especially to exotic international destinations.
According to Morning Consult, a company tracking American consumer trends, American travellers have demonstrated for a third week running that they feel 66% comfortable with going on vacation. 48% of people surveyed say they are comfortable with domestic air travel. And 34% of people are comfortable with international air travel. There was an increase in Americans feeling comfortable enough to use home sharing, like AirBnb.
The long trend, compared with data from 2021, shows that Americans are ready to travel and use hotels again but will do so with caution.
The European Union recommended to member countries to open up for non-EU travellers in late February this year, with individual countries making the final choice on how and when to ease travel restrictions. Italy discarded the pre-travel covid test requirement for fully vaccinated travellers at the beginning of March, while Iceland set the precedent in late Feb. More EU countries followed suit. France announced on March 31st that there is no need to show tests and compelling reason for non-vaccinated and honour pledge for vaccinated travellers to cross the Channel. The UK also dropped all pre-travel testing requirements for fully vaccinated people in February.
These rapid changes to travel policies have caused many airlines and tour operators to scramble for new staff in order to be fully operational in time for the Easter and summer holiday periods. The UK’s Ryanair, for example, has been recruiting cabin crew and pilots based on their predictions that the travel industry is bouncing back strongly. British Airways, who axed over 10 000 jobs during the pandemic, is frantically hiring staff back to meet expected travel demand.
Key players of the travel and tourism industry in Europe are cautiously optimistic that travel will resume to pre-pandemic levels this year already.
There have been a few big international events in the Middle East attracting travellers from all over the world nowadays.
Dubai Expo 2020: The city of Dubai was in a frenzy of activity recently after it hosted the Expo 2020, which was delayed for two years due to the pandemic. The colossal event was held over 180 days, at 96 locations with over 30 000 events to entertain visitors.
“The world has been fixated by Expo 2020 Dubai since it raised the curtain six months ago (October 1, 2021) in spectacular fashion and, as the sun sets on the most diverse World Expo in the history of the event, it will do so with a bang,” organisers said.
The mammoth global event recorded over one million visitors on the last weekend of the event alone! The mega global event started in October 2021 and the grand finale was on the last day of March. Organisers said the total number of visitors up until the 27th March was 22,937,830.
“This means the first World Expo in the region has fulfilled its commitment to attract between 22.9 million and 25.4 million visits, a target range set out in the registration dossier that was officially ratified by BIE member-states in 2015, and a remarkable achievement in the context of the global COVID-19 pandemic,” they added.
Bahrain Grand Prix: The Grand Prix attracted 35,000 fans on race day (Sunday), which was the highest attendance recorded ever since the inception of the race in Bahrain.
Tickets for popular seating areas like the Turn 1 and Main grandstand were sold out well before the race weekend. This Bahrain Grand Prix was the first race of the F1 season that was open to a maximum capacity crowd since the coronavirus pandemic began and race fans took full advantage. The event also recorded their highest attendance ever for the Friday before the main race.
This race included a high number of international visitors, like Dutch fans who were out in full force to support Dutch driver Max Verstappen. According to race organisers, about 35% of tickets were bought by international visitors.
In addition, the Football (soccer) World Cup 2022 will be organised in Qatar this autumn and is expected to attract millions of fans.
The optimistic view isn’t shared in areas of the world where vaccination rates are low and covid cases are high, like large swathes of the African continent. Only 10% of the African continent has been fully vaccinated.
Asian countries, like Thailand and Vietnam, although open for tourism, still have certain covid restrictions in place.
During pandemic period, Australia had some of the most stringent travel restrictions in place to curb the spread of the virus. They reopened their borders for tourists back in February after two years of closures.
The general attitude to travel is that we have to live with the virus that is here to stay. International travel is in constant flux as new variants of covid are discovered, like the highly infectious but less dangerous BA.2 subvariant of the omicron variant, and governments change rules in response.
Travel has become a gamble– a calculated risk many are willing to take in order for life to resume back to normal.
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