MADRID — Just how big of an impact has COVID-19 had on the economy? It’s about eight times the loss seen from 2009’s Great Recession, says UNWTO.
According to the newest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, international arrivals plunged 81% in July and 79% in August, traditionally the two busiest months of the year and the peak of the Northern Hemisphere summer season. The drop until August represents 700 million fewer arrivals compared to the same period in 2019 and translates into a loss of US$730 billion in export revenues from international tourism.
This, says UNWTO, is more than eight times the loss experienced on the back of the 2009 global economic and financial crisis.
“This unprecedented decline is having dramatic social and economic consequences and puts millions of jobs and businesses at risk,” warned UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili. “This underlines the urgent need to safely restart tourism in a timely and coordinated manner.
All world regions recorded large declines in arrivals in the first eight months of the year. Asia and the Pacific, the first region to suffer from the impact of COVID-19, saw a 79% decrease in arrivals, followed by Africa and the Middle East (both – 69%), Europe (-68%) and the Americas (-65%).
Demand for travel remains largely subdued due to the ongoing uncertainty about the pandemic and low confidence. Based on the latest trends, UNWTO expects an overall drop close to 70% for the whole of 2020.
Looking ahead to 2021, UNWTO’s Panel of Experts foresees a rebound in international tourism, mostly in the third quarter of 2021. However, around 20% of experts suggest the rebound could occur only in 2022.
Travel restrictions are seen as the main barrier standing in the way of the recovery of international tourism, along with slow virus containment and low consumer confidence. The lack of coordinated response among countries to ensure harmonized protocols and coordinated restrictions, as well as the deteriorating economic environment were also identified by experts as important obstacles for recovery.