Widespread travel restrictions and an unprecedented fall in demand saw international tourism arrivals drop by 74 per cent in 2020, the worst ever in recorded history, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO).
Destinations worldwide welcomed one billion fewer international arrivals in 2020 than in the previous year, with the loss in export revenues estimated to be around USD 1.3 trillion, more than 11 times the loss recorded during the 2009 global economic crisis.
“The crisis has put between 100 and 120 million direct tourism jobs at risk, many of them in small and medium-sized enterprises,” an UNWTO report said.
Meanwhile, the crisis is “far from over” with many countries reintroducing stricter travel restrictions like mandatory testing quarantines and in some cases closure of borders. The only ray of hope is the gradual roll out of Covid-19 vaccines, which is expected to rein in the disease spread and ease travel restrictions.
“While much has been made in making safe international travel a possibility, we’re aware that the crisis is far from over. The harmonization, coordination and digitalization of Covid-19 travel-related risk reduction measures including testing, tracing and vaccination certificates, are essential foundations to promote safe travel and prepare for the recovery of tourism once conditions allow,” said UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili.
The latest UNWTO Panel of Experts survey shows a mixed outlook for 2021. Almost half of the respondents (45 per cent) envisaged better prospects for 2021 compared to last year, while 25 per cent expect similar performance and 30 per cent foresee a worsening of results in 2021.
“50 per cent of the respondents now expect a rebound to occur only in 2022 as compared to 21 per cent in October 2020. The remaining half of respondents still see a potential rebound in 2021..,” the report said.