International tourist arrivals could be down by 20 to 30 percent in 2020 when compared with 2019 figures, according to the World Tourism Organization’s (UNWTO) updated assessment of the likely impact of the coronavirus (Covid-19) on international tourism.
According to the UNWTO, an expected fall of between 20-30 percent could translate into a decline in international tourism receipts (exports) of between $300-450 billion, almost one third of the $1.5 trillion generated in 2019.
“Taking into account past market trends, this would mean that between five and seven years’ worth of growth will be lost to COVID-19,” the organization said.
Putting this into context, UNWTO notes that in 2009, on the back of the global economic crisis, international tourist arrivals declined by 4 percent, while the SARS outbreak led to a decline of just 0.4 percent in 2003.
Alongside this new assessment, UNWTO underlines tourism’s historic resilience and capacity to create jobs after crisis situations, while also emphasizing the importance of international cooperation and of ensuring the sector is made a central part of recovery efforts.
“Tourism is among the hardest hit of all economic sectors. However, tourism is also united in helping to address this immense health emergency,” UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said.
According to Pololikashvili, while it is too early to make a full assessment of the likely impact of Covid-19 on tourism, it is clear that millions of jobs within the sector are at risk of being lost.
“Around 80 percent of all tourism businesses are small-and-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and the sector has been leading the way in providing employment and other opportunities for women, youth and rural communities,” he said.
Since the start of the Covid-19 crisis, UNWTO has been working closely with the wider United Nations system, including directly alongside the World Health Organization (WHO) to guide the sector, issuing key recommendations for both high-level leaders and individual tourists.
To better consolidate and strengthen the response, the organization has established the Global Tourism Crisis Committee.