In this episode of Talking Europe Ashim Kumar and David Kennedy talked about the touristic industry opening again after the pandemic and on the challenges of immigration with a focus on the Ukrainian war refugees.
In the last two years, tourism has taken a lot of damage mainly due to the COVID-19 pandemic and strict restrictions but also because of recent sanctions on Russian airlines. The industry is reviving slowly as many countries lift strict sanitary regulations. David pointed out that many states, in Europe and elsewhere, are greatly dependent on tourism and recently they have taken a major hit.
Ashim said that in 2019 tourism accounted for 7 percent of global trade and was the third-largest export category after fuels and chemicals. The pandemic caused that large chunk of the economy to cut out or at least greatly diminish. According to Eurostat data in 2021, the total number of nights spent in hotel accommodations in the EU increased by 27 percent compared to the previous year. It is still 37 percent lower than the pre-pandemic level.
Heavy restrictions on travel caused many people to choose local holidays instead of going abroad
to popular tourist destinations. This had an enormous negative impact on the airline industry, especially the low-cost airlines which rely on tourism.
David highlighted the issue of lower CO2 emissions thanks to less travel. However Ashim pointed out that the private jets were still operational, especially when politicians and celebrities were going to climate-control conferences to discuss ways of saving the planet.
As the sanitary restrictions are lifted and things are starting to look brighter for tourism, the industry was recently hit by sanctions.
No flights are allowed from Russia to Europe, which means no Russian tourists can come to European travel destinations. Much lower numbers are coming to Turkey and North Africa, where one-third of tourists were Russians.
Issue of immigration
The hosts discussed the ways of coping with immigration, particularly in the context of the war immigrants coming to Europe from Ukraine. It is estimated that in the first weeks of the war some four million Ukrainians fled their country and overall 10 million were forced to leave their homes.
So far, the refugee crisis has been handled well by the countries which accept Ukrainians.
Assessing the topic of immigration from a wider perspective Ashim said that at some stage all nations moved around the world which makes nearly everybody an immigrant at some level. In general, all immigrants face serious challenges regardless if they are forced to move or choose to travel to a different country. David said that many Ukrainians choose to stay in Poland not only because it is close to their home country, but also because it is similar culturally and linguistically, which makes it much easier to settle and become a valuable part of society.
It is estimated that out of three million war refugees that entered Poland from Ukraine, some 904,000 already returned to their home country, but 1.6 million wish to stay in Poland for a longer period of time.
Ashim said that the longer someone stays in a country, the harder it is to leave and adjust to a new country, new laws and new habits. In the case of Ukrainians, many of them may have nowhere to go back to, as many of the cities, towns and villages were destroyed.