International update: The present state of the global tourism industry and factors shaping its future

Published: Wednesday 8 December 2021

Tourism was one of the sectors most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, as governments attempted to protect their populations through lockdowns, quarantines and restrictions on travel. This, together with the decision of consumers to limit international travel, resulted in a contraction for the tourism sector with severe economic consequences, particularly for countries that depend on tourism.

As a result, experts are not expecting things to return to the same pre-pandemic level in the short term or medium term. Travel restrictions are slowly lifting, but with regulations still in place in most parts of the world, how will the future of travel look in 2022 and beyond? Take a look below at four key facts shaping global tourism…

1. Responsible and sustainable travel

The pause that the COVID-19 pandemic forced upon the tourism industry allowed us to have a glimpse of the world with a more sustainable way of travelling. As consumers took the opportunity to rethink how their activities interact with the world around them, they increasingly doubled down on sustainability and grew aware of the negative impact of over-tourism. This resulted in consumers progressively seeking destinations and travel options that align with their green values, forcing businesses to rethink how they run their operations to create a more environmental-friendly tourism sector.

2. Change in focus: Domestic trips and outdoor destinations

Throughout history, humankind has shared an innate trait – the desire to explore. Travellers, largely confined to their homes for the best part of the past year and a half, are longing for a change of scenery. However, how that desire translates into demand might look different in the post-pandemic world.

Due to the changing nature of COVID-19 virus spread and travel restrictions, travellers are looking for more predictable and reliable options. Consumer behaviour has changed, with travellers now preferring to travel in smaller groups and shorter distances, valuing flexibility and booking on much shorter lead times. The World Travel & Tourism Council estimates that in 2020 domestic visitor spending was less negatively impacted as it decreased by 45%, compared to international visitor spending, which declined by 69.4%.

3. Leisure travel and business travel – the road to recovery

Leisure travel will lead the recovery in the tourism and travel sector, whilst business travel could see a permanent shift due to the new-found possibility of remote work. Regional and domestic business travel is expected to return first, but a full recovery to pre-pandemic levels is not expected to happen before 2025.

4. Technology and innovation

One of the upsides of the pandemic is that it acted as an unexpected catalyst for innovation for many sectors, including travel and tourism. Travel businesses are now exploring how technology can be used to drive demand and facilitate safe travel.

Technologies such as virtual reality (VR) can help customers experience destinations before the travel, giving them extra encouragement to make a booking. Additionally, this type of technology can also be used in combination with real-world experiences, with travellers using, for example, an AR-based app as a guide or navigation tool around tourist attractions.

A look into the future: Reimagining travel for a new era

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused consumer habits and expectations to change when it comes to different areas, including travelling. Some changes have been so profound that they may have been irreversibly changed for years to come. We cannot be sure what the tourism industry will be like post-pandemic, but this crisis can serve as a chance to improve how the industry operates, especially through greater digitisation and sustainability.

As countries start to gradually lift travel restrictions and travellers’ confidence returns, travel will gradually recover. However, bringing back travellers and restoring their confidence will require creativity and new approaches, creating the need for travel businesses to understand these changes and adjust accordingly.

For international business enquiries, please contact Scott Lawrence on or 01242 680000.

Content image: /uploads/team/unknown.jpg Scott Lawrence
Scott Lawrence
Partner, Audit and Assurance
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