UNWTO predicts international tourism could fall by up to 30%

MADRID — The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) says international tourism could plummet 20-30% in 2020.

The figures are included in the agency’s updated assessment of the likely impact of the COVID-19 on international tourism.

Taking into account the unparalleled introduction of travel restrictions across the world, the United Nations’ specialized agency for tourism expects that international tourist arrivals will be down significantly when compared with 2019 figures.

An expected fall of between 20-30% could translate into a decline in international tourism receipts (exports) of between US$300-450 billion, almost one-third of the US$1.5 trillion generated in 2019.

Taking into account past market trends, this would mean that between five and seven years’ worth of growth will be lost to COVID-19. Putting this into context, UNWTO notes that in 2009, on the back of the global economic crisis, international tourist arrivals declined by 4%, while the SARS outbreak led to a decline of just 0.4% in 2003.

“Tourism is among the hardest hit of all economic sectors,” says UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili. “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.”

Pololikashvili added that, while it’s too early to make a full assessment on the impact of COVID-19 on tourism, it’s clear that millions of jobs within the sector are at risk of being lost. Around 80% of all tourism businesses are small- and medium-sized enterprises, and the sector has been leading the way in providing employment for women, youth and rural communities.

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