UN forecast international tourism bounce-back more likely in 2022

It’s the timeline that keeps on moving, but if you’d hoped international tourism might be back on the cards by mid-2021, well, you may be waiting a few months longer.

The World Tourism Organisation (WTO) revealed on Tuesday that international tourist arrivals unsurprisingly plunged by 70 per cent during the first eight months of 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic. But it is its prediction for when that number is set to rebound that will have you putting away your passport.

While the body predicts any form of rebound won’t happen until the third quarter of 2021, citing travel restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic set to loom, others can’t see any real movement will happen until 2022.

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The World Tourism Organisation has revealed when it thinks international travel will start up again. Picture: Peter Parks/AFPSource:AFP

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In a statement on Tuesday, the panel said the main obstacles that faced international travel recovery include border closures and travel restrictions, along with slow containment of the virus and shaky traveller confidence.

With a third wave sweeping the US, which now has 8.7 million confirmed cases, and Russia, France, Spain and Argentina recording one million cases, with the United Kingdom not far behind – one in five experts say 2022 is a more accurate timeline for any international travel recovery.

Last week, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce and chairman Richard Goyder revealed it will be unlikely for Australians to fly to the US or the UK with the airline for at least another year, with Mr Joyce pointing to a possibility “by the end of 2021”.

“For some of our big destination like the United States and the UK, it’s going to need a vaccine given the high prevalence of the virus in both of those locations,” he said at the company’s AGM in Sydney on Friday.

“But we are getting more and more confident about the opportunities and the potential for a vaccine in helping getting those operations up by potentially by the end of 2021.”

Travel bubbles may be the only way to see parts of the world. Picture: David Gray/AFPSource:AFP

While Qantas recorded a $2 billion loss for 2019-20, with the coronavirus pandemic slashing its full-year revenue by 21 per cent, the airline said it expected a further $100 million in losses for the first quarter of this financial year.

The airline hopes to launch new Asian routes, as speculation continues to mount about Australia forming COVID-19 “bubbles” with countries with low case numbers – like what has been partially established with New Zealand.

Last month, Prime Minister Scott Morrison suggested that international arrivals from South Korea, Japan and other countries in the Pacific could potentially join our Kiwi neighbours who are allowed to enter NSW, South Australia and the Northern Territory without undertaking hotel quarantine.

Qantas don’t expect flights to the US and Europe until at least the end of 2021.Source:Getty Images

“Both Qantas and Jetstar are keeping a close eye on new markets that might open up as a result of these bubbles – including places that weren’t part of our pre-COVID network,” Mr Goyder said.

“By early next year, we may find that Korea, Taiwan and various islands in the Pacific are top Qantas destinations while we wait for our core international markets like the US and UK to re-open.”

The last time international tourist arrivals posted an annual decline was in 2009 when the global economic crisis led to a 4 per cent drop.

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