MADRID, 17 September 2020: International tourist arrivals fell 93% in June when compared to 2019, with the latest data from the United Nations World Tourism Organization showing the damage Covid-19 has caused to the tourism sector.
According to the new issue of the World Tourism Barometer from the specialized agency of the United Nations, the arrivals of international tourists fell by 65% during the first half of the year. This represents an unprecedented decline, as countries around the world closed their borders and introduced travel restrictions in response to the pandemic.
UNWTO reports that, since the beginning of September, 53% of destinations had eased travel restrictions. However, many governments remain cautious and this latest report shows that the blockades introduced during the first half of the year have had a massive impact on international tourism. The rapid and sudden decline in achievement has put millions of jobs and businesses at risk.
Economic cost calculation
According to the UNWTO, the massive decline in demand for international travel during January-June 2020 translates into a loss of 440 million international arrivals and about $ 460 billion in export earnings from international tourism. This is about five times the loss on international tourism bills recorded in 2009 during the global economic and financial crisis. Based on the recovery of different scenarios by 2019, tourism levels may take between two to four years to reach.
UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said: “The latest World Tourism Barometer shows the profound impact this pandemic has on tourism, a sector on which millions of people depend for their livelihoods.” However, safe and responsible international travel is now possible in many parts of the world, and it is imperative that governments work closely with the private sector to move global tourism back. Coordinated action is essential.
All global regions are hit hard
Despite the gradual reopening of many destinations since the second half of May, the projected improvement in the number of international tourism during the peak summer season in the Northern Hemisphere did not materialize.
Europe was the second hardest hit of all global regions, with a 66% drop in tourist arrivals in the first half of 2020. Even America (-55%), Africa and the Middle East (both -57%) ) also suffered. However, Asia and the Pacific, the first region to feel the impact of Covid-19 on tourism, was the hardest hit, with a 72% drop in tourists over the six-month period.
At the sub-regional level, Northeast Asia (-83%) and Southern Mediterranean Europe (-72%) experienced the largest declines. All regions and sub-regions of the world recorded a decline of more than 50% in arrivals in January-June 2020. The contraction in international demand is also reflected in the double-digit decline in international tourism spending between major markets. Major foreign markets like the United States and China continue to be in a quandary, although some markets such as France and Germany showed an improvement in June.
Looking ahead, it seems likely that low travel demand and consumer confidence will continue to influence results for the rest of the year. In May, the UNWTO outlined three possible scenarios, showing a decline of 58% to 78% of international tourist arrivals in 2020. Current trends until August indicate a demand decline of close to 70% (Scenario 2), especially now that some destinations -set restrictions on travel.
The extension of the scenarios until 2021, indicates a change in trends next year, based on specific assumptions. They include a gradual and linear lifting of travel restrictions, the availability of a vaccine or treatment, and the return of traveler confidence. However, the return to 2019 levels in terms of tourist arrivals could take two to four years.
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