Covid’s tourism impact to wipe out $2.4 trillion globally


Tourism is one of the sectors most affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.


Waheed Abbas

Published: Wed 30 Jun 2021, 11:27 PM

The global economy could lose between $1.7 trillion to $2.4 trillion in 2021 from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the global tourism sector, according to a new United Nations report released on Wednesday.

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad) report found that developing will countries will bear the brunt and it does not expect a return to pre-Covid tourist arrival levels until 2023 or later.

“In fact, nearly half of the experts interviewed see a return to 2019 levels in 2024 or later. The main barriers are travel restrictions, slow containment of the virus, low traveller confidence and a poor economic environment,” the report said.

Globally, the blow to international tourism by Covid-19 has caused a loss in GDP of more than $4 trillion only for the years 2020 and 2021.

Tourism is one of the sectors most affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Indeed, the number of international tourist arrivals declined by 84 per cent between March and December 2020 when compared with the previous year.

In many developing countries, arrivals were down by 80-90 per cent. “The beginning of the year 2021 has been worse for most destinations, with an average global decline of 88 per cent as compared to pre-pandemic levels,” the report said.

The most affected regions are Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia, Oceania, North Africa and South Asia, while the least affected are North America, Western Europe and the Caribbean.

“This shows that the greatest impact has fallen on developing countries. The reduction in tourist arrivals across developing nations is relatively consistent, mostly between 60 and 80 per cent,” said the report.

The top 10 worst-hit countries include Turkey, Ecuador, South Africa, Ireland, Switzerland, South Korea, Australia/New Zealand, the UK, France and Norway.

The estimated losses in employment of unskilled labour due to the fall in tourist arrivals vary according to the proportion of unskilled labour employed in the tourism industry and the extent to which the tourism sector is hit in a specific economy.

The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) reports that almost all countries have implemented travel restrictions of one sort or another, such as travel bans, visa controls and quarantines.

As a result, international tourism was almost totally suspended in April and May of 2020. Inbound tourist arrivals declined 74 per cent between January and December 2020, about one billion trips. However, if the pre-Covid months of January and February 2020 are excluded, the fall in arrivals amounts to 84 per cent.

The UNWTO said the recovery will depend to a large extent on the uptake of vaccines, the removal and coordination among countries of travel restrictions and the rebuilding of travellers’ confidence.

In order to bring tourism back on track, it suggested that much needs to be done to restore the confidence of travellers, who are concerned about health, and the risk of cancelled travel plans and becoming stranded overseas. Vaccinations seem to be the most important element.

It also suggested to mitigate the socio-economic impacts on livelihoods and also countries also make strategic decisions regarding the future of tourism which could help expedite the recovery.

The UNWTO estimates that 100 million to 120 million direct tourism jobs are at stake.

Globally, nearly 182 million people have been tested positive and more than three billion vaccines have been administered.


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