Saudi Arabia’s decision to prohibit its citizens from traveling to 16 countries due to a rapid increase in COVID-19 infections serves as a stark reminder that tourism’s road to recovery will be bumpy. Furthermore, it is a reminder that the situation remains fragile.
Global COVID vaccination rates are high but do not guarantee recovery
COVID-19 cases are being outnumbered by increasing vaccinations globally. GlobalData’s COVID-19 database shows that a total of 11.7 billion vaccination doses were administered as of May 23, 2022, providing the travel and tourism industry with a much-needed boost.
These vaccination numbers have also helped provide a more optimistic outlook for the travel industry. According to GlobalData’s Demand and Flows Database, the current estimation shows that international trips are expected to recover by 2024 and will exceed pre-pandemic levels by 2025. However, vaccinations have only helped stop the spread of the virus to a certain extent and it continues to run rife among the global population.
COVID-19 is still a factor
Despite the increasing number of vaccinations, the risk of contracting the virus still exists. Many countries have now started to adapt to life with COVID. Still, multiple mutations of the virus have made vaccinations less effective, resulting in a resurgence of cases. For example, Saudi Arabia is experiencing a resurgence in the number of cases, which has now forced it to ban travel to certain countries in order to curb the spread of the virus. This decision shows that the travel recovery is still conditional and could be delayed further.
According to a GlobalData opinion poll from May 2022, “Which of the following would deter you from traveling? ” 57.8% of global respondents agreed that quarantine requirements implemented by different nations will be a significant deterrent for them. Furthermore, 54.8% of global respondents also said that travel restrictions would deter them from traveling. As the virus continues to mutate, the risk of getting infected is also increasing. According to the same opinion poll, 50.5% of global respondents have deferred their travel plans due to the fear of contracting COVID. This indicates that factors such as quarantine requirements, fears of contracting COVID-19, entry requirements (such as COVID-19 negative test or proof of vaccination), and travel restrictions imposed by many countries have dampened travelers’ spirits.
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 put a halt to the travel industry’s momentum. In 2019, the tourism industry was in a strong position, reporting record-breaking international figures. In recent years, the travel industry has been disrupted many times due to catastrophic events like 9/11 and the 2009 global financial crisis but has always bounced back. A similar pattern of recovery is expected in the long-term but the continuous resurgence in COVID-19 cases shows that the situation is still fragile.