With the highly contagious Omicron variant in the picture, global tourism arrivals have further been affected, and will not return to the pre-pandemic levels until 2024, the World Tourism Organization (WTO) said on Tuesday.

The highly contagious Omicron variant, though mild, will “disrupt recovery” for 2022. Last year in 2021, tourism saw a four percent growth over 2020, according to the Madrid-based UN agency’s World Tourism Barometer.


Meanwhile, tourism revenue in 2020 was 72 percent lower than that in 2019.

“The pace of recovery remains slow and uneven across world regions due to varying degrees of mobility restrictions, vaccination rates and traveller confidence,” the UNWTO said in a press release.

In Europe and the Americas, foreign visitor arrivals increased by 19 percent and 17 percent in 2021, respectively, when compared to 2020.

In the Middle East, however, arrivals declined by 24 percent in 2021, while in the Asia-Pacific region, they were 65 percent below the 2020 levels, and 94 percent lower than pre-pandemic levels.

The statement said tourism professionals “see better prospects” for this year after turbulence in the early months because of the Omicron wave.

Many countries are highly dependent on tourism and are eagerly awaiting a return to normal.

“The economic contribution of tourism in 2021 (measured in tourism direct gross domestic product) is estimated at $1.9 trillion (1.68 trillion euros), above the $1.6 trillion in 2020, but still well below the pre-pandemic value of $3.5 trillion,” the statement noted.