Ensuring the tourism sector restarts fully in 2022 in the aftermath of Covid-19 is crucial due to its direct contribution to national economies and individual livelihoods, found a United Nations (UN) report released on Thursday.
The 2022 edition of the World Economic Situation and Prospects (WESP) report, based on World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) data, underlines the sector’s importance for the world economy and particularly for developing economies, including Small Island Developing States (SIDS).
It goes on to assess the cost of declining tourism and the need to take immediate action.
According to data cited, international tourist arrivals plunged by 73 percent in 2020, dropping to a 30-year low. And while tourism did record a modest improvement in the third quarter of 2021, international arrivals between January-September 2021 were still 20 percent below 2020 levels and 76 percent below pre-pandemic 2019 levels.
Meanwhile, the world economy is projected to grow by 4 percent in 2022 and then 3.5 percent in 2023, following a global contraction of 3.4 percent in 2020 and a rebound of 5.5 percent in 2021.
The figures highlight the key role of tourism as a source of employment and economic development.
“The sudden halt in international tourism caused by the pandemic has emphasized the sector’s importance to both national economies and individual livelihoods,” said UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili.
The Covid-19 crisis has had a devastating impact on employment, including in hospitality, travel services and retail trade, the report’s analysts note adding that it has disproportionately affected vulnerable groups, including youth and migrant workers, as well as workers with lower educational attainment and skills.
It has also exacerbated gender inequality, especially in developing countries, with women seeing greater declines in employment and labor force participation than men.
Key to recovery is diversification in 2022 and beyond, the UN report said, particularly for tourism-dependent countries.
In this direction, the report’s analysts add that many destinations are developing domestic and rural tourism to help local economies in rural and depressed areas to boost job creation and protect natural resources and cultural heritage, while at the same time empowering women, youth and indigenous peoples.