The European Travel Commission (ETC) predicts tourist arrivals to be just 20% below pre-pandemic levels this year in spite of numerous challenges still facing the sector.
While Omicron is expected to stifle recovery of Europe’s travel sector in the first quarter of 2022, the travel outlook as a whole remains positive.
Domestic travel is expected to exceed pre-pandemic peaks, while international travel will be slower to return and is not likely to fully recover until 2024.
Many travel restrictions in Europe are beginning to be relaxed with the realisation that the new variant, although highly contagious, is far from the threat it was initially deemed to be, according to the ETC.
The share of European travel from the US is projected to bounce back to pre-pandemic levels relatively quickly, and ahead of demand from other long-haul markets, such as Asia-Pacific, with significant improvement anticipated this year.
Despite optimism around increased international travel, China’s prolonged ‘zero Covid’ stance presents a degree of uncertainty and may continue to affect global travel well into 2022, the ETC cautioned.
ETC president Luís Araujo said: “It is clear to see the stifling impact of uncertainty brought about by Omicron.
“ETC is optimistic that the European travel sector will overcome Omicron and the many other challenges present in 2022.
“However, the sector’s resilience is contingent on the EU being proactive in the development of endemic strategies that will allow for the loosening of travel restrictions for intra-European and international travel alike.
“As we learn to live with Covid-19, governments across Europe have to strike the right balance between managing health risks and facilitating mobility.”