MADRID — The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a 22-per-cent decrease in international tourist arrivals during the first quarter of 2020, the latest data from the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) shows. According to the United Nations specialized agency, the crisis could lead to an annual decline of between 60 per cent and 80 per cent when compared with 2019 figures. This places millions of livelihoods at risk and threatens to roll back progress made in advancing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“The world is facing an unprecedented health and economic crisis,” says UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili. “Tourism has been hit hard, with millions of jobs at risk in one of the most labour-intensive sectors of the economy.”
Available data reported by destinations point to a 22-per-cent decline in arrivals in the first three months of the year, according to the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer. Arrivals in March dropped sharply by 57 per cent following the start of a lockdown in many countries, as well as the widespread introduction of travel restrictions and the closure of airports and national borders. This translates into a loss of 67-million international arrivals and about US$80 billion in receipts (exports from tourism).
Prospects for the year have been downgraded several times since the outbreak and uncertainty continues to dominate. Current scenarios point to possible declines in arrivals of 58 per cent to 78 per cent for the year. These depend on the speed of containment and the duration of travel restrictions and shutdown of borders. The following scenarios for 2020 are based on three possible dates for the gradual opening up of international borders:
- Scenario 1: (down 58 per cent) based on the gradual opening of international borders and easing of travel restrictions in early July
- Scenario 2: (down 70 per cent) based on the gradual opening of international borders and easing of travel restrictions in early September
- Scenario 3: (down 78 per cent) based on the gradual opening of international borders and easing of travel restrictions in early December