Global tourism has suffered its worst year on record in 2020, with international arrivals dipping by 74 per cent, according to the latest data from the World Tourism Organization.
The United Nations agency announced that tourism destinations worldwide welcomed one billion fewer international arrivals in 2020 than in the previous year due to an unprecedented fall in demand and widespread travel restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“This compares with the 4% decline recorded during the 2009 global economic crisis,” it said.
According to the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, the collapse in international travel represents an estimated loss of $1.3tn in export revenues, which is more than 11 times the loss recorded during the 2009 global economic crisis.
It also said the crisis had put over 100 million direct tourism jobs at risk, many of them in small and medium-sized enterprises.
According to the organisation, Asia and the Pacific recorded over 84 per cent decline, the first region to suffer the impact of the pandemic and the one with the highest level of travel restrictions currently in place and also recorded the largest decrease in arrivals in 2020, over 300 million fewer.
It also said both Africa and the Middle East recorded a 75 per cent decline; Europe recorded a 70 per cent decrease in arrivals, while the Americas saw a 69 per cent decrease in international arrivals.
The UNWTO Secretary-General, Zurab Pololikashvili, said, “While much has been made in making safe international travel a possibility, we are aware that the crisis is far from over.”
“The harmonisation, coordination and digitalisation 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.”
According to the UNWTO, due to the growing nature of the pandemic, many countries are now reintroducing stricter travel restrictions.
It said, “These include mandatory testing, quarantines and in some cases, complete closure of borders, all weighing on the resumption of international travel.
“At the same time, the gradual rollout of a COVID-19 vaccine is expected to help restore consumer confidence, contribute to the easing travel restrictions and slowly normalise travel during the year ahead.”