After the Covid crisis, the new challenges of world tourism

After the Covid crisis the new challenges of world tourism

Wars, uprisings, inflation, climate change, Covid, all these world events have more or less significant repercussions on the daily life of some 7.9 billion Earthlings. And the tourism sector is no exception.

The Covid global health crisis page, which literally weighed down world tourismis not yet completely turned that already a new drama has come to thwart the field of tourism for a year: the war in Ukraine and its many consequences.

It is early to assess the impact of the Russian military offensive in Ukraine, but this represents a major risk for international tourism which could delay the sector’s already weak and uneven recovery, according to the World Tourism Organization. In 2022, international tourists were over 900 million (twice as many as in 2021 but still at 63% of pre-pandemic levels).

From the beginning of the war, immediately, the day after the Russian declaration, reluctance appeared among French tourists », affirms Marianne Chandernagor, director of the World Tourism Fair which is currently being held in Paris. A concern which seems, with time and the durability of the conflict, to have however somewhat dissipated, even if the agencies offering trips to Russia or Ukraine are no longer present in the corridors of the show this year. ” There was a halt in reservations, continues Marianne Chandernagor, even to destinations far removed from the war zone. »

In Romania, even on the Ukrainian border, there is no visible impact of the conflict. But there is still some fear and cancellations from foreign tourists says Mihaela Mihet, head of the Romanian Tourist Office in France.

Crises to overcome

And the same goes for Iran. The destination, very popular six months ago, is now shunned by tourists following the popular uprising anti-government engendered by the death of Mahsa Amini in September 2022 and the fierce repression that continues. But tour operators anticipate and learn to diversify. ” We had to stop our four Russian travel offers, says one of the members of the Tirawa agency, which specializes in adventure travel, but above all, we have for several years had to stop Syria and Yemen, tourist hotspots, and for a few months have stopped offering Peru as a destination since the country was shaken by a political crisis unprecedented. »

In order not to sink, agencies must therefore extend their range of destinations so as not to be trapped by a sudden conflict or a climatic catastrophe. Without forgetting to take into account the cost of these trips. And the Tirawa agency explains that sales for Central Asia have dropped drastically due to the increase in flight prices; it is now impossible to fly over Russia and Ukraine and the travel time to reach the countries of Central Asia has thus increased considerably.

The situation is politically stable in our region, but tourists are now very afraid to fly and pass near the war zone. », laments the manager of the Zamin Travel Uzbekistan stand. ” Things are a little better today, people are getting used to war, but it’s still hard to reassure them, even if our flights no longer go through Moscow, but through Istanbul. »

If tourists desert Russia and Ukraine, Russians no longer go on vacation to a number of countries either, to the chagrin of certain regions such as Turkey, but also the Côte d’Azur, where the economic impact is greatly felt. Now, because of the sanctions, the Russians are flying to Mongolia, the Maldives or even the Seychelles. In 2019, Russian spending on international travel reached $36 billion. ” In addition, because of the Covid, but also of the war, many Chinese or Japanese tourists travel less and less “says the director of the World Tourism Fair. The reasons are therefore sanitary, geopolitical, but also climatic, she explains.

Traveling and protecting the planet…

Fashion is todayecotourism, eco-responsible travel, fair travel benefiting both local populations and the country’s natural and cultural resources. And in the aisles of the show, the stands advocating this new kind of tourism are flourishing, because “nature” destinations are now the most in demand. It is therefore time to travel while taking care of the planet, less often, but longer. Two people traveling from Europe to the United States and back contribute as much to climate change as the average gas and electricity consumption of a household over a whole year, a fact that makes many people think.

In fact, tourism is responsible for 8% of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, according to a study published in the scientific journal Nature Climate Change. If the main sources of pollution are air travel (¾ of greenhouse gas emissions from the tourism sector come from transport), food and accommodation must also be taken into account.

And travelers are now called upon to ask themselves how to compensate for their footprint. To do this, they can now finance a project to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or carbon sequestration (reforestation project, development of renewable energies, improvement of waste management, etc.).

However, the first criterion for a trip remains the budget, followed most often by safety. ” When tourists are asked where the environmental issue lies in their choice of vacation, more and more of them admit to taking it into account in their decision. “, explains Marianne Chandernagor who nevertheless wants to put a damper on it: the gap between the wish and the practice persists. Tourists want to protect the planet, but above all they want to travel.

Optimism remains

And ” today, the craze is back, like an impression that we “do with it” », continues Marianne Chandernagor. ” Tourism is doing well, actually. We thought we had to experience a revolution in uses with all the crises, but in fact no. There is a real desire for revenge on the part of travelers. And Marianne Chandernagor noted that reservations for 2023 even exceed those of 2019, despite the surging inflation. Because travel remains a way for everyone to escape, and not only physically.

According to forward-looking scenarios compiled by UNWTO for 2023, international tourist arrivals could reach 80% to 95% of their pre-pandemic levels this year, depending on the extent of the economic downturn, the ongoing resumption of Asia-Pacific travel and the evolution of the Russian offensive in Ukraine.