International tourism could decline by 60-80% in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in the revenue loss of USD 910 billion to USD 1.2 trillion and placing millions of livelihoods at risk, the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has said.
The global international agency said that the pandemic has caused a 22% fall in international tourist arrivals during the first quarter of 2020.
According to the United Nations specialised agency, the global health crisis could lead to an annual tourism decline between 60% and 80% when compared with the 2019 figures.
This places millions of livelihoods at risk and threatens to roll back progress made in advancing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), it said.
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.
Available data reported by destinations point to a 22% decline in arrivals in the first three months of the year, according to the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer.
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 USD 80 billion in receipts (exports from tourism).
Although Asia and the Pacific shows the highest impact in relative and absolute terms (a decline of 33 million arrivals), the impact in Europe, though lower in percentage, is quite high in volume (-22 million), the agency said.
Prospects for the year have been downgraded several times since the outbreak and uncertainty continues to dominate.
Current scenarios point to possible declines in arrivals of 58% to 78% for the year. These depend on the speed of containment and the duration of travel restrictions and shutdown of borders.
The agency has given three scenarios for 2020 based on possible dates for the gradual opening up of international borders. According to scenario 1, there could be a decline of 58% in arrivals based on the gradual opening of international borders and easing of travel restrictions in early July.
Scenario 2 could see a 70% decline if international borders are gradually opened and travel restrictions are eased in early September.
Scenario 3 states that there could be a 78% decline in arrivals based on the gradual opening of international borders and easing of travel restrictions only in early December.
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 USD 910 billion to USD 1.2 trillion in export revenues from tourism and 100 to 120 million direct tourism jobs at risk.
This is by far the worst crisis that international tourism has faced since records began (1950). The impact will be felt to varying degrees in the different global regions and at overlapping times, with Asia and the Pacific expected to rebound first, the agency said.