UNWTO reports 70% decline in international tourism for first eight months of 2020

Published on : Friday, October 30, 2020

According to the latest data from the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, a 70% drop in international arrivals can be noticed for the first eight months of 2020 as travel restrictions introduced as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic continue to disrupt the global tourism industry. The newest report reveals that international arrivals plunged 81% in July and 79% in August, traditionally considered to be the two busiest months of the year and the peak of the Northern Hemisphere summer season.

The drop until August represents 700 million fewer arrivals as compared to the same period in 2019 and translates into a loss of US$ 730 billion in export revenues from international tourism. The numbers show a loss that is more than eight times the loss experienced in light of the 2009 global economic and financial crisis.

Almost every region around the world recorded large declines in arrivals in the first eight months of the year. Asia and the Pacific, the first region to suffer from the impact of COVID-19, saw a 79% decrease in arrivals, followed by Africa and the Middle East (both – 69%), Europe (-68%) and the Americas (-65%). Europe recorded comparatively smaller declines in July and August (-72% and -69%, respectively) due to the gradual reopening of international borders. However, the recovery was short-lived as travel restrictions and advisories were reintroduced amid an increase in the number of active coronavirus cases.

On the other hand, Asia and the Pacific recorded the largest declines with -96% in both months, reflecting the closure of borders in China and other major destinations in the region. Meanwhile, the demand for travel continues to remain largely subdued due to the ongoing uncertainty about the pandemic and low traveller confidence. Based on the latest trends, UNWTO expects an overall drop close to 70% for the whole of 2020.

Zurab Pololikashvili, Secretary-General, UNWTO said in a statement that the unprecedented decline in international arrivals and travel industry is having dramatic social and economic consequences, as it is putting millions of jobs and businesses at risk. He also mentioned the current reports highlights the urgent need to safely restart tourism, in a timely and coordinated manner. UNWTO’s Panel of Experts foresees a rebound in international tourism in 2021, mostly in the third quarter of 2021.

However, around 20% of experts suggest the rebound could occur only in 2022. Travel restrictions are seen as the main barrier standing in the way of the recovery of international tourism, along with slow virus containment and low consumer confidence. The lack of coordinated response among countries to ensure harmonised protocols and coordinated restrictions, as well as the deteriorating economic environment were also identified by experts as important obstacles for recovery.

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