Coronavirus — 2020 Worst Year on Record for Tourism

  • This decrease has been caused by the unprecedented drop in demand and the restrictions applied to travelers.
  • During the 2008 crisis, the decline was 4%, figures much lower than those that have occurred with the coronavirus crisis.
  • The latest survey among the UNWTO expert group has shown mixed perspectives for 2021.

The year 2020 closed as the worst year in the history of tourism, with 1 billion fewer international arrivals in the world and losses estimated at more than €1 trillion caused by the coronavirus pandemic. As reported on Thursday by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the figures represent a 74% drop in the volume of tourists compared to 2019.

UNCTAD estimates that for every $1 million lost in international tourism revenue, a country’s national income could drop by up to $3 million. The effects on employment could be dramatic.

This decrease has been caused by the unprecedented drop in demand and the restrictions applied to travelers. During the 2008 crisis, the decline was 4%, figures much lower than those that have occurred with the coronavirus crisis.

The data provided by the latest World Tourism Barometer indicates that income losses are more than eleven times those recorded during the financial crisis and between 100 and 120 million direct tourism jobs have been put at risk, many of them in small and medium-sized companies.

The UNWTO hopes, however, that the gradual introduction of vaccines will help to restore consumer confidence, relax mobility restrictions, and slowly normalize travel during 2021, and thus reduce losses.

Europe has Lost 500 Million Tourists

The decrease in tourists varies depending on the geographical point of the planet. Asia and the Pacific, the first regions to suffer the effects of the pandemic, have registered the greatest decrease in arrivals in 2020. At 84% less than in total figures, they represent 300 million tourists.

The Middle East and Africa follow. In both cases, they have suffered a fall of 75%. For its part, Europe has suffered a decrease in the number of arrivals of approximately 70%. Despite a small and brief rebound during the summer, the old continent has recorded the biggest sinking in absolute terms. It has lost more than 500 million tourists in 2020. 

Finally, the Americas have had a contraction of 69% in international arrivals, with slightly better results in the last quarter of the year, when many Latin American countries began to lift restrictions for travel between countries.

International tourism spending continues to reflect a very weak demand for travel abroad, with falls in the top ten source markets of between 53% for Chinese and 99% for Australia.

Prospects for a Rebound in 2021 Continue to Worsen

UNWTO conducted a global survey among its UNWTO Panel of Tourism Experts on the impact of COVID-19 on tourism and the expected time of recovery. Data as collected by UNWTO, January 2021.

The latest survey among the UNWTO expert group has shown mixed perspectives for 2021. Almost half of those surveyed (45%) believe that there will be a better outlook than in 2020, while 25% expect a similar behavior and 30%, a worsening of the results.

The overall prospects for a rebound in 2021 appear to have worsened, with 50% of respondents not believing it will occur until 2022, compared to 21% expressing that opinion last October.

The other half see it still possible in this year, although expectations are lower than in the previous survey.

Likewise, whenever tourism activity resumes, the group of experts foresees an increase in demand for nature and outdoor tourism activities, with a growing interest in domestic tourism and  “slow travel” experiences.

Long-term scenarios indicate that international tourism could take between 2.5 and 4 years to return to 2019 levels, given that most experts do not anticipate it before 2023, targeting 2024 or even later.

UNWTO Secretary General Zurab Pololikashvili acknowledged that, although much has been done to make international travel safe, the crisis “is still far from over.”

In his opinion, the harmonization, coordination and digitization of measures to reduce the risk of the spread of COVID-19, including tests, tracing and vaccination certificates, “are the essential basis for promoting safe travel. and prepare for the recovery of tourism as soon as conditions permit.”

Vincent othieno

News reporting is my thing. My view of what is happening in our world is colored by my love of history and how the past influences events taking place in the present time.  I like reading politics and writing articles. It was said by Geoffrey C. Ward, "Journalism is merely history's first draft." Everyone who writes about what is happening today is indeed, writing a small part of our history.

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