Diriyah to become Saudi Arabia’s gateway to sustainable tourism

DUBAI: Global tourism has received a significant boost as the number of international tourists increased by 182% to an estimated 117 million in the first quarter of 2022, up from about 41 million last year.

Of the approximately 76 million new passengers arriving from abroad, 47 million were booked in March 2022, according to a study by the UN World Tourism Organization.

According to the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, Europe leads the way with a 280 percent increase in the number of tourists between the first quarter of 2022 and the corresponding duration last year.

The barometer, which periodically monitors short-term trends in international tourism, also showed the Middle East ranked second with a 132 percent increase, followed by the Americas, which recorded a 117 percent increase over the study period.

However, international arrivals in Europe, the Middle East and America remained 43%, 59% and 46% below 2019 levels.

The influx of inbound tourists to Africa remained encouraging, up 96 percent year-on-year in the first quarter of 2022, but still 61 percent below 2019 levels.

The Asia-Pacific region also saw moderate growth of 64 percent, despite a significant number of destinations closed to non-essential travel.

Off the beaten path

However, the outlook looks brighter if destinations ease or lift travel restrictions. A UNWTO report says international tourism is expected to recover gradually in 2022, although it remains 61 percent below 2019 levels.

As of June 2, 45 destinations, including 31 in Europe, had no COVID-19 restrictions. In addition, the UNWTO report says that a growing number of Asian destinations have also begun to ease restrictions.

However, the only snag in this jaunt is a difficult economic scenario followed by an ongoing Russian Federation military offensive in Ukraine, the data says.

The Russian offensive also disrupted travel in Eastern Europe, but to date does not appear to have had a direct effect.

The report also calculated that since the first year of the pandemic, export earnings from international tourism have been lost in the amount of $2 billion.

Reinvention of the wheel

The data showed tourism revenue, including passenger travel, reached 2.67 trillion Saudi Riyals ($713 billion) in 2021, up 4 percent in real terms from 2020 but still 61 percent lower 2019 level.

In the Middle East and Europe, revenues have risen to around 50 percent of pre-pandemic levels, according to the UNWTO.

According to the data, travel expenses also increased from SAR 3,750.66 in 2019 to SAR 5,250.93 in 2021.

What is also optimistic about global travel trends is the UNWTO Confidence Index, which showed a marked improvement. For the first time since the pandemic, the index has returned to 2019 levels, reflecting growing optimism among travel experts around the world.

Most of the unmet demand was due to intra-European travel and travel to the US…


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