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UNWTO: Three Scenarios for Impact of Covid-19 on 2020 Tourism

The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) on Thursday said that current scenarios of the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on international tourism point to possible declines in arrivals of 58 percent to 78 percent for the year, compared with 2019 figures.

The coronavirus pandemic has already caused a 22 percent fall in international tourist arrivals during the first quarter of 2020, the organization’s latest data shows. The figure translates into a loss of 67 million international arrivals and about $80 billion in receipts (exports from tourism).

“Tourism has been hit hard, with millions of jobs at risk in one of the most labour-intensive sectors of the economy,” UNWTO Secretary General Zurab Pololikashvili said.

Covid-19 impact on tourism in 2020 – 3 scenarios

The organization’s scenarios on the impact of the pandemic for the whole 2020 tourism year depend on the speed of containment and the duration of travel restrictions and shutdown of borders.

The UNWTO has released the following scenarios for 2020, which are based on three possible dates for the gradual opening up of international borders:

Scenario 1 (-58 percent) based on the gradual opening of international borders and easing of travel restrictions in early July
Scenario 2 (-70 percent) based on the gradual opening of international borders and easing of travel restrictions in early September
Scenario 3 (-78 percent) based on the gradual opening of international borders and easing of travel restrictions only in early December

Under these scenarios, the impact of the loss of demand in international travel could translate into:

Loss of 850 million to 1.1 billion international tourists
Loss of US$910 billion to US$1.2 trillion in export revenues from tourism
100 to 120 million direct tourism jobs at risk

“This is by far the worst crisis that international tourism has faced since records began (1950). The impact will be felt to varying degrees in the different global regions and at overlapping times, with Asia and the Pacific expected to rebound first,” the UNWTO said.

Experts see recovery in 2021 – survey

Domestic demand is expected to recover faster than international demand according to the UNWTO Panel of Experts survey. The majority expects to see signs of recovery by the final quarter of 2020 but mostly in 2021. Based on previous crises, leisure travel is expected to recover quicker, particularly travel for visiting friends and relatives, than business travel.

The estimates regarding the recovery of international travel is more positive in Africa and the Middle East with most experts foreseeing recovery still in 2020. Experts in the Americas are the least optimistic and least likely to believe in recovery in 2020, while in Europe and Asia the outlook is mixed, with half of the experts expecting to see recovery within this year.

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