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UNWTO says international tourism faces worst crisis since records began

UNWTO says international tourism faces worst crisis since records began
May 13, 2020

World tourism is facing its worst crisis since records were first collected 1950, with new figures from the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) predicting that 1.1 billion fewer people travelling will travel in 2020.

As a result, with global tourism set to see a decline of 80% in international arrivals during the year the livelihoods of up to 120 million people are threatened.

With travel restrictions and airport closures in place around the world, the newly released UNWTO Panel of Experts survey suggests that the wider impact on those who directly rely on tourism for work will represent a financial loss in export revenues of between US$910 billion and US$1.2 trillion.

The predictions are based on UNWTO figures for the first three months of this year, which show a worldwide decline in international arrivals of 22% as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Following the start of the lockdown in many countries, arrivals dropped by 57% for March alone.

Commenting on the findings, UNWTO Secretary General, Zurab Pololikashvili stated “the world is facing an unprecedented health and economic crisis.

“Tourism has been hit hard, with millions of jobs at risk in one of the most labour-intensive sectors of the economy.”

The figures are in line with the World Travel and Tourism Council’s (WTTC) predictions of more than 100 million job losses in the global tourism industry sector, with three quarters of these in G20 countries.

Also commenting on the findings, WTTC President and Chief Executive, Gloria Guevara advised “this is a staggering and deeply worrying change in such a short time.

“In just April alone, our research shows an increase of 25 million in the number of job losses in travel and tourism. The whole cycle of tourism is being wiped out by the pandemic. Travel and tourism is the backbone of the global economy. Without it, global economies will struggle to recover in any meaningful way and hundreds of millions of people will suffer enormous financial and mental damage for years to come.”

The impact will vary in different regions at different times, with Asia and the Pacific expected to rebound first. According to the UNWTO survey, some recovery is expected in the final quarter of 2020 and into early 2021, while domestic tourism is expected to recover faster than the demand for international travel.

Global airline revenues are forecast to drop by more than half - US$314 billion - in 2020, according to the latest estimates by the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

Images: Airline revenues are forecast to drop by more than half in 2020 (top) while issues with overtourism, as evidenced in the Italian city of Venice in recent years, now seem a distrant memory (below).

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