MADRID — The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has released its updated assessment of the likely impact of COVID-19 on international tourism.

Taking into account the unparalleled introduction of travel restrictions across the world, UNWTO expects international-tourist arrivals will be down by 20 to 30 per cent in 2020, compared to 2019. The organization notes that these numbers are based on the latest developments within the global community.

An expected decrease of between 20 and 30 per cent could translate into a decline in international tourism receipts (exports) of between US$300 billion and $450 billion — almost one third of the US$ 1.5 trillion generated in 2019. Accounting for past market trends, the equivalent of five to seven years’ worth of growth could be lost due to COVID-19.

For comparison, UNWTO data shows that in 2009, on the back of the global economic crisis, international-tourist arrivals declined by four per cent, while the SARS outbreak led to a decline of just 0.4 per cent in 2003.

“Tourism is among the hardest hit of all economic sectors,” says Zurab Pololikashvili, secretary-general, UNWTO. “However, tourism is also united in helping to address this immense health emergency — our first and utmost priority — while working together to mitigate the impact of the crisis, particularly on employment, and to support the wider recovery efforts through providing jobs and driving economic welfare worldwide.”

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.

The complete UNWTO assessment of COVID-19’s potential impact on international tourism is available here.


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