According to the new edition of the World Tourism Barometer of the United Nations Specialized Agency (UNWTO), the arrivals of international tourists fell by 65% during the first half of the year.
Countries around the world have closed their borders and imposed travel restrictions in response to the pandemic, which has led to an unprecedented drop in travel, the UNWTO points out.
In recent weeks, an increasing number of countries have begun to reopen to international tourists, and the UNWTO reports that in early September, 53% of destinations eased travel restrictions. Yet many governments remain cautious, and this latest report shows that the blockades introduced during the first half of the year had a massive impact on international tourism. The sharp drop in arrivals has put millions of jobs and businesses at risk, the UNWTO warns.
Coordinated action is key
According to the UNWTO, the massive drop in demand for international travel during the period January-June 2020 led to a loss of 440 million international arrivals and about $ 460 billion in export earnings in international tourism.
That’s roughly five times the loss in international tourism revenues recorded in 2009 amid the global economic and financial crisis.
UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said the world's latest tourism barometer shows how much of an impact the coronavirus pandemic has on tourism, a sector on which millions of people depend for life, but stressed that safe and responsible international travel is now possible in many parts of the world. it is essential that governments work closely with the private sector to relaunch global tourism. “Coordinated action is key", Emphasizes Pololikashvili.
Europe is the second hardest hit region
Despite the gradual reopening of many destinations since the second half of May, the expected improvement in international tourism during the peak summer season in the northern hemisphere has not materialized.
Europe was the second hardest hit of all global regions, with a 66% drop in tourist arrivals in the first half of 2020. The Americas (-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, were hardest hit, with a 72% drop in the number of tourists in the six-month period.
At the subregional level, the largest declines were suffered by Northeast Asia (-83%) and the Southern Mediterranean (-72%). All world regions and subregions recorded a decline of more than 50% in arrivals in January-June 2020.
Major outgoing markets such as the United States and China remain stagnant, although some markets such as France and Germany showed some improvement in June.
Looking ahead, it seems likely that reduced travel demand and consumer confidence will continue to affect results for the rest of the year. In May, the UNWTO outlined three possible scenarios, indicating a 58% to 78% drop in international tourist arrivals in 2020. Current trends until August indicate a drop in demand close to 70% (Scenario 2), especially now that some destinations are re-introducing travel restrictions.
UNWTO: Recovery will take 2-4 years
The extension of the scenario to 2021 from the UNWTO indicates a change in the trend next year, based on assumptions about the gradual and linear lifting of travel restrictions, the availability of vaccines or treatment, and the return of passenger confidence.
As described in the May 2020 UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, the recovery of international arrivals after the 2003 SARS epidemic took 11 months to regain pre-crisis levels, 14 months after the September 11, 2001 attacks, and 19 months after the global economic crisis of 2009. In the regions most affected, it took 1 to 3,5 years for returns to return to pre-crisis levels.
In conclusion, although it is difficult to predict because no one knows how the whole situation will develop, from the UNWTO the return of international tourism to the level of 2019 in terms of tourist arrivals, expect to last between 2 and 4 years.
Also, the UNWTO expects a faster recovery of domestic tourism than international travel. We need to be aware that the real recovery of tourism only starts when a cure or vaccine is found, and until then it will be extremely difficult to plan anything. We will have to be ready to react day by day, as this year, and have more scenarios prepared, which can be implemented immediately, in accordance with the current situation.
Side dish: UNWTO World Tourism Barometer - Vol. 18