World Tourism Day 2022: Transport Update – Overcoming recent challenges
For those planning their next adventure, the main questions are ‘where do we want to go?’ and ‘how do we get there?’.
The annual celebration of World Tourism Day (WTD) has once again arrived, and since its inception in 1980, its importance has arguably never been more acute, with one in ten people estimated to be employed in tourism globally. This year World Tourism Day promotes a rethinking of tourism and in the current post-pandemic, environmental and economic climate, it seems an apt time to consider the future of the sector.
When travelling within the UK, tourists can travel by several means, but when seeking international travel, often air travel is the only answer. In 2019, air travel made up 59% of international inbound tourism. As the main method of international transport, the aviation sector is fundamental to tourism.
It has been an undeniably turbulent summer. Holidaymakers have had to endure delays at airports and oversold or cancelled flights. All too often, excited passengers were told only after checking in that their flights had been cancelled. Despite this, the IATA report that passenger numbers for 2022 have recovered to 69% of pre-pandemic levels, which is a significant bounce-back. By 2024, traveller numbers will reach 4 billion, primarily made up of tourists, which will exceed pre-pandemic records.
Given the summer we’ve had, the World Tourism Day theme, ‘rethinking tourism’, is even more pertinent to the aviation sector, as it grapples to adapt to the challenges of the last 3 years. As flight schedules return to normal and travellers regain confidence in airports, it is an exciting time for tourism in the aviation industry.
In terms of staycation opportunities, many will load up the car and take to the frequently overcrowded highways experiencing potentially frustrating journey times. In future this option is going to be increasingly brought into question.
The UK coach industry exists to support both long and short distance tourism experiences. Coaching businesses contribute and estimated £14 billion each year to UK tourism. Yet, there are challenges for the sector. One particular challenge increasingly focussed on, is the capacity of tourist destinations to accommodate and provide welcoming services to tourists arriving by coach. Northallerton in North Yorkshire has been the most recent town to take steps to ensure it is an attractive destination providing dedicated coach parking with a dedicated welcoming service. In major cities a key issue is layover facilities for coaches waiting whilst visitors attend events. The position in London is particularly acute given its huge attraction as a tourist destination.
Railways have also been a cornerstone of domestic tourism for generations, but the rail sector has been severely impacted by Covid-19. Historically low patronage and the need for emergency Government intervention, coupled with ongoing rail strikes, highlight the difficulties faced by the industry that have adversely impacted millions of passengers.
However, against this backdrop, there is much cause for continued confidence in our railways. Patronage levels have rebounded strongly with the removal of travel restrictions, recovering to approximately 93-95% of pre-pandemic levels this summer tourist season. Passenger numbers continue to grow and patronage has seen a shift in demand with less commuter journeys to increased leisure travel. What is certain is that the rail industry is ready to meet the opportunity of shifting trends and has the potential to develop sustainably and offer an arguably more environmental friendly means of holidaying than other traditional tourist transport modes.
It has been a difficult few years for the tourism industry, both abroad and closer to home. As we emerge from the pandemic it is clear that leisure and tourism will return to pre-pandemic levels before long based upon what we have seen over the last 6 – 12 months. With the on-going energy and cost of living crises, whether recovery will continue at its current pace or be impacted by wider economic factors and tightening of disposable incomes will no doubt become more evident over the next few months.
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