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After two pandemic years, world sees summer travel bounce — and chaos

20 4 17
02.07.2022

AP — At a tourism conference in Phuket last month, Thailand’s prime minister looked out at attendees and posed a question with a predictable answer.

“Are you ready?” Prayuth Chan-ocha asked, dramatically removing his mask and launching what’s hoped to be the country’s economic reset after more than two years of coronavirus-driven restrictions. When the crowd yelled its answer — yes, according to local media — it might have been speaking for the entire pandemic-battered world.

But a full recovery could take as long as the catastrophe itself, according to projections and interviews by The Associated Press in 11 countries in June. They suggest that the hoped-for rebound is less like a definitive bounce — and more like a bumpy path out of a deep and dark cave.

Some locales, such as the French Riviera and the American Midwest, are contributing to the climb more than others — like shuttered, “zero-COVID” China, which before the pandemic was the world’s leading source of tourists and their spending.

The human drive to bust out and explore is helping fuel the ascent, packing flights and museums despite rising coronavirus infections and inflation. But economic urgency is the real driver for an industry worth $3.5 trillion in 2019 that the United Nations estimates lost about that much during the pandemic. By some estimates, tourism provides work for one in 10 people on Earth.

Many places, particularly those that have loosened safety requirements, are seeing what passes for a go-go summer of sunny optimism and adventure.

“They are saying it’s the summer of revenge travel,” Pittsburgh resident Theresa Starta, 52, said as she gazed across one of Amsterdam’s canals at crowds thronging to the Dutch capital. “Everything seems so bad all around the world, so it’s nice to see some things coming back.”

“The road to a full recovery is very long, but at least we are back on it,” said Sanga Ruangwattanakul, president of the Khao San Road Business Association in Bangkok.

Despite the roaring return of travelers, challenges and uncertainty cast shadows over the post-pandemic landscape. Full recoveries are generally not expected until at least 2024. Concerns hovered around a long list of issues, including inflation, supply chain problems, rising infection rates and labor shortages.

Before June was over, chaos had come to define travel in the summer of 2022. Airports and airlines that had cut back during the depths of the pandemic struggled to meet the........

© The Times of Israel


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