The worldwide travel industry does not see COVID as having a major effect on business for 2023, according to the WTM Industry Report 2022.
Among travel decision-makers who took part in research for the report, only 5% said increased COVID rates would most likely affect their business negatively in 2023.
By comparison, 45% of respondents – who include members of the WTM Buyers’ Club, WTM exhibitors and travel trade visitors – said the cost of living would most likely affect their business negatively next year – the top answer by far.
The price of petrol (13%), war in Ukraine (12%) and energy prices (10%) are all more of a concern among industry executives than COVID rates.
In addition, 4% of respondents said they feared a repeat of the 2022 chaos at airports would most likely negatively affect their business next year; 2% said climate change; another 2% said Brexit, while 1% said enhanced border checks would negatively affect their business next year.
COVID devastated international travel and tourism for more than two years, as countries closed their borders and brought in tough rules on domestic travel. Travel rules began to ease this year and even those destinations that have been the most cautious are now lifting restrictions.
Canada, for example, removed all COVID-19 entry restrictions from 1 October. But the country’s Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos warned COVID was not over, saying: “If anybody believes the pandemic is over, I invite them to visit a hospital.”
New Zealand – another country that had strict rules aimed at containing the spread of COVID – ended its traffic light system in September and removed testing and vaccination requirements.
Hong Kong lifted compulsory quarantine rules in September, with the Hong Kong Government saying its “goal is to minimise the inconvenience faced by inbound travellers due to quarantine requirements and allow room for Hong Kong to connect with the world as far as possible, while being able to contain the epidemic development”.
Thailand also dropped its requirement for proof of vaccination or test results from 1 October.
In mid-September, US President Joe Biden declared the COVID-19 pandemic was over – but he was criticised for being premature.
On 23 September of this year, United Nations World Health Organisation Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “We have never been in a better position to end the pandemic,” but added the world is “not there yet”.
World Travel Market London Exhibition Director, Juliette Losardo, said:
“The global travel and tourism industry was thriving before the COVID pandemic, recording 10 years of continuous growth, according to UNWTO data.
“After more than two years of challenging trading conditions, it’s pleasing to see the senior buyers, exhibitors and visitors who took part in our research showing real optimism that the dark days of the COVID pandemic are behind them.
“Like them, we’re looking forward to a successful WTM with plenty of business being done on the exhibition floor and at our WTM Buyers’ Club meetings and networking sessions.”