With the Covid-19 pandemic resulting in a 22% slide in international tourist numbers for the first quarter of 2020, the crisis could result in a much more dire plunge of 60% to 80% this year.
This is according to the latest World Tourism Barometer report, published on Thursday by the Madrid-based UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO).
The report presents three possible scenarios, but paradoxically notes that these scenarios should not be “interpreted” as forecasts by the organisation.
“Prospects for the year have been downgraded several times since the [Covid-19] outbreak and uncertainty continues to dominate. Current scenarios point to possible declines in [international tourist] arrivals of 58% to 78% for the year,” UNWTO says in a statement on the report.
“These [scenarios] depend on the speed of containment and the duration of travel restrictions and shutdown of borders,” it explains.
The report reveals that the double-digit decrease in first quarter international tourist arrivals is due to a significant decline in March.
“Arrivals in March dropped sharply by 57% following the start of a lockdown in many countries, as well as the widespread introduction of travel restrictions and the closure of airports and national borders.”
“This translates into a loss of 67 million international arrivals and about $80 billion in receipts [exports from tourism],” it adds.
The report shows that the ‘Asia and Pacific’ region took the worst knock in terms of first quarter international tourist arrivals, with a 35% decline. Europe was the second-worst affected with a 19% decline, followed by the Americas, down 15%.
Africa, the second-fastest growing region in terms of international tourism last year, declined by 13%.
“The world is facing an unprecedented health and economic crisis. Tourism has been hit hard, with millions of jobs at risk in one of the most labour-intensive sectors of the economy,” UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said following the release of the report.
The release of the report follows a statement by the UNWTO last week, noting that the Covid-19 pandemic has seen virtually “all destinations worldwide” introducing restrictions on travel.
“This represents the most severe restriction on international travel in history and no country has so far lifted restrictions introduced in response to the crisis,” it said.
Below are the three possible scenarios for international tourist arrivals in 2020 outlined in the report, based on international borders’ gradual opening and travel restrictions easing by the following dates:
- Scenario 1: down 58% – early July
- Scenario 2: down 70% – early September
- Scenario 3: down 78% – early December.
UNWTO said that under these scenarios, the impact of the loss of demand in international travel could translate into:
- Loss of 850 million to 1.1 billion international tourists
- Loss of $910 billion to $1.2 trillion in export revenues from tourism
- 100 million to 120 million direct tourism jobs at risk.
Based on tourism industry experts surveyed, the organisation notes that a recovery in global tourism is largely anticipated in 2021.
“Domestic demand is expected to recover faster than international demand. The majority [of those surveyed] expect to see signs of recovery by the final quarter of 2020, but mostly in 2021,” UNWTO says.
“Based on previous crises, leisure travel is expected to recover quicker, particularly travel for visiting friends and relatives, than business travel. Sentiments regarding the recovery of international travel is more positive in Africa and the Middle East with most experts foreseeing recovery in 2020,” it adds.