Tourism arrivals unlikely to return to pre-pandemic levels until 2024: UN

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Tourism arrivals unlikely to return to pre-pandemic levels until 2024: UN

Tourism arrivals around the world aren't expected to return to pre-pandemic levels until 2024, according to the World Tourism Organization.

The highly contagious Omicron variant, though mild, will disrupt the recovery in early 2022 after last year saw four percent growth over 2020, according to the Madrid-based UN agency's World Tourism Barometer.

Tourism revenue in 2020 was 72 percent less than the previous year, which closed with the outbreak of the coronaviruses.

The UNWTO said in a press release that recovery is slow and uneven across the world regions due to varying mobility restrictions, vaccination rates and traveller confidence.

Foreign visitor arrivals increased by 19 percent and 17 percent last year in Europe and the Americas.

In the Middle East, arrivals declined by 24 percent in 2021, while in the Asia-Pacific region they were 65 percent below 2020 levels and 94 percent down on pre-pandemic levels.

Tourism professionals are seeing better prospects for this year after the turbulence in the early months due to the Omicron wave.

The agency predicts a 30 to 78 percent rise in international arrivals this year over 2021, while remaining far below 2019 levels.

Most experts don't think there will be a return to pre-pandemic levels until at least 2024, it said.

Many countries are heavily dependent on tourism and eagerly awaiting a return to normal.

The economic contribution of tourism in 2021, measured in tourism direct gross domestic product, is estimated to be $1.9 trillion 1.68 trillion dollars above the $1.6 trillion mark in 2020, but still well below the pre-pandemic value of $3.5 trillion, the statement said.