ENAT President's Message, 12th May 2023

EasyJet and RyanAir planes on tarmac at Lisbon airport with line of passengers in foreground. Photo: Ivor Ambrose  Photo: Summer-clad passengers cross the tarmac at Lisbon Airportt with EasyJet and Ryan Air planes in background 

Rome, 12th May 2023

Dear Friends,

On Friday, 6th of May, the World Health Organization lifted the Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) for COVID-19.

In a press conference, director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, "COVID-19 has been so much more than a health crisis, disrupting economies, travel, shattering businesses and plunging millions into poverty."

He went on to state that for more than a year the pandemic has been on a downward trend and "this trend has allowed most countries to return to life as we knew it before COVID-19."

Then he made the pronouncement: "Therefore, with great hope, I declare COVID-19 over as a global health emergency."

Additionally, the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer , May 2023 shows that the sector's swift recovery has continued into 2023.

It shows that:

  • Overall, international arrivals reached 80% of pre-pandemic levels in the first quarter of 2023
  • The Middle East saw the strongest performance as the only region exceeding 2019 arrivals (+15%) and the first to recover pre-pandemic numbers in a full quarter.
  • Europe reached 90% of pre-pandemic levels, driven by strong intra-regional demand.

In many places, we are close to or even above pre-pandemic levels of arrivals.

Both events are full of promises for the Tourism sector and for all the enterprises which may see companies go back to profit and thus restore full services. This will depend, of course, on attracting new staff and bringing former staff back to the industry.

The behaviour of tourists, particularly during the religious and public holidays shows a new desire to travel and enjoy their regained leisure time.

Business tourism is also on an upswing, as face-to-face contact between people remains highly valued, after the years of enforced “virtual” online meetings.

UNWTO expects even higher numbers from May to the end of the Summer season in the northern hemisphere.

We are very happy to have, finally, the possibility to acknowledge that tourism opportunities are again available to everybody while prompting the tourism sector to continue to be aware of their responsibility in guaranteeing services and quality to all tourists, including persons with disabilities and those with specific access requirements. We ask them to be in line with the new requests coming from the customers, in terms of responsibility, accessibility and the promotion of a growing green economy.

The growth of tourism flows after the pandemic, is beneficial in terms of reinforcing local economies and the generation of jobs, yet it should be carefully managed so as not to go back to the negative and destructive effect of “over-tourism” on cities, communities and natural areas. Customers with specific access requirements are much more at ease in a situation where crowded environments are avoided and more attractive alternatives are offered.

Rural tourism, special interest offers, slow tourism, discovery of less-known paths and destinations are some examples of how a well-planned vacation can be successful.

Tourism providers should not forget, also, the requirements of seniors who, quite often, prefer to travel at their own pace, enjoying the discoveries that a well-structured tourism destination can provide.

At ENAT, we think that the capability to re-think tourism - regenerate tourism - will be very profitable, bringing together destinations, the local residents and the visitors in a unique vision of what an effective and profitable tourism development should be. Thus, all tourism operators would take advantage of the new opportunities offered by a new start in tourism activities after the pandemic, and make it a real added value for all.

Let’s look to the coming tourist season with this objective in mind!

Anna Grazia Laura, Rome.