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Global tourism to keep hurting until 2024

The picture looks worse in the business travel industry, where bookings in 2021 are expected to be 48.8% less than in 2019, 20% less in 2022, 10% less in 2023, but also 5% less in 2024. It is clear that the impact of the pandemic on business travel will be more permanent, as many executives now commonly meet digitally with colleagues, clients and associates living in another country.

The global tourism industry will have to wait until 2024 to return to the level of bookings seen in 2019, while on the revenue side, the wait may be even longer. In fact, in some subcategories, such as business travel, or the cruise sector, are not going to return to 2019 levels, even after four years due to the downturn.

This is stated in a report by Fitch Ratings, which comes to confirm those who claimed that the impact of the pandemic on the travel and tourism industry is so big that the road to recovery will be long and difficult. In fact, the credit rating agency has taken into account the recent positive news on vaccines, which are in the final stage of approval and promise high levels of immunity.

In particular, according to the report,

• 2020 will end with an annual drop of bookings of 56.3% for the leisure tourism sector, compared with a drop of 67.5% for the business travel sector and -74.6% for cruise passengers.

• In 2021, global leisure tourism will see a drop in bookings of 29.9% compared to 2019.

• In 2022, the decline is forecast at 10% and next year 5%, before zeroing in 2024.

The picture looks worse in the business travel industry, where bookings in 2021 are expected to be 48.8% less than in 2019, 20% less in 2022, 10% less in 2023, but also 5% less in 2024. It is clear that the impact of the pandemic on business travel will be more permanent, as many executives now commonly meet digitally with colleagues, clients and associates living in another country.

Regarding cruise ships,  the drop in 2021 will be even greater compared to this year, as it will be -81.9% compared to the level of bookings in 2019. In 2022, cruise passengers are projected to be 29% less than in 2019, and in 2023 15% lower, before returning to 2019 levels in 2024.

Fitch’s forecast for hotel revenues in the EMEA area (Europe, Middle East and Africa) in coming years is also ominous. According to the report, they are expected to decline by 66.8% this year, while the downward trajectory will be maintained throughout the next five years, even if it is declining. Specifically, in 2021 a revenue reduction of 45% is forecast compared to 2019, while in 2022 the decline will be limited to 13.7%, in 2023 to 8.5% and in 2024 to 5.8% compared to 2019.

But it is becoming clear that even after five years, the tourism industry will continue to suffer the consequences of the pandemic and will not have fully returned to the level found in 2019.

But even these Fitch Ratings estimates may need to be revised downwards. According to analysts, although the demand for leisure tourism will recover faster than business travel, or even cruise ships, it is possible that there will be a negative review in the future, as there is currently a great deal of uncertainty about the pandemic’s medium-term impact.

In short, no one can safely predict how consumers will behave once pandemic concerns begin to subside and travel is allowed again.

In the Greek market, the picture largely reflects what is happening abroad. According to the Bank of Greece for the first 9 months of this year, the number of foreign visitors fell by 77.2% and travel receipts dropped by 78.2%.

For the next year, the expectations of industry players have fallen significantly. The state budget has included a provision for tourism revenues foreseeing 60% of 2019 income but sector officials are less optimistic, seeing a rate of about 50 percent.

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