TOURIST arrivals in the Asia and the Pacific (APAC) are expected to lag the recovery posted by other regions, with travelers still deterred by the frictions associated with international travel, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).
In a statement on Monday, the UNWTO said the 2022 projection is contained in its World Tourism Barometer report.
“In Africa and the Middle East, arrivals could reach about 50% to 70% of pre-pandemic levels, while in APAC they would remain at 30% of 2019 levels in the best-case scenario,” the UNWTO said.
“Scenarios by region show Europe and Americas recording the best tourism results in 2022, while APAC is expected to lag due to more restrictive travel policies,” it added.
The UNWTO sees international arrivals hitting between 55% and 70% of pre-pandemic levels in 2022. The actual outcome will depend on further travel restrictions, the extent of inflation, and fallout from the Russia-Ukraine war.
“More recent challenges such as staff shortages, severe airport congestion and flight delays and cancellations could also impact international tourism numbers,” the UNWTO said.
Asked to comment, John Paolo R. Rivera, associate director at the Asian Institute of Management’s Dr. Andrew L. Tan Center for Tourism, said that the Philippines will be banking on domestic tourism to pick up the slack.
“Recent Philippine Tourism Satellite Accounts (PTSA) indicated that Philippine tourism is 80% driven by domestic tourism and 20% foreign tourism. The Philippines can rely on its domestic tourism to thrive unlike other countries reliant on foreign tourism,” Mr. Rivera said.
“Philippine tourism should strengthen domestic tourism through better infrastructure, product offerings, and safety measures,” he added.
Mr. Rivera noted that the recent detection of monkeypox in the Philippines could be a downside risk.
“Monkeypox is a threat if it proves to be contagious and require physical distancing and movement restrictions to contain it. It will affect tourism again negatively as tourism is a high touch, high movement industry,” Mr. Rivera said.
The Health department on July 29 announced the detection of the first monkeypox case in the country, involving a 31-year-old Filipino.
Tourism Congress of the Philippines President Jose C. Clemente III said in a Viber message that the Philippines has to balance managing outbreaks and opening up the economy.
“We are pleased with the current arrival rate of the Philippines as it continues to ramp up with each month. We are still getting back in the swing of things and having a slower but steady pace is fine for now,” he added.
The UNWTO said that international tourism posted a sustained recovery in the first five months of 2022 despite economic and geopolitical challenges.
“International tourism saw a strong rebound in the first five months of 2022, with almost 250 million international arrivals recorded. This compares to 77 million arrivals from January to May 2021 and means that the sector has recovered almost half (46%) of pre-pandemic 2019 levels,” the UNWTO said.
The UNWTO said that Europe posted a 350% increase in international arrivals in the first five months of 2022, while the Middle East and Africa remained 54% and 50% below 2019 levels, respectively.
It added that APAC posted 94% increase in arrivals during the first five months. However, the number was 90% below 2019 levels as some borders remained closed to non-essential travel.
The UNWTO noted that more destinations are easing or lifting travel restrictions at this stage of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
It said that as of July 22, 62 destinations (including 39 in Europe) had no COVID-19 related restrictions in place and more destinations in Asia have started to ease their rules.
“The recovery of tourism has gathered pace in many parts of the world, weathering the challenges standing in its way. At the same time, (we should be cautious) in view of the economic headwinds and geopolitical challenges which could impact the sector in the remainder of 2022 and beyond,” UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said.
Since Feb. 10, the Philippines has allowed the entry of fully vaccinated tourists by nationals permitted visa-free entry, while fully vaccinated Filipinos have been permitted entry since Feb. 1.
Foreigners and returning Filipinos are no longer required to undergo mandatory quarantine upon arrival.
The Department of Tourism estimates tourist arrivals, including Filipino balikbayans, at 814,144 as of the end of June.
According to preliminary data from the Philippine Statistics Authority, the tourism industry’s direct gross value added accounted for 5.2% of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2021, up from 5.1% of GDP in 2020. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave