A report by UNCTAD and the UN’s World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) states, international tourism arrivals are likely to stagnate in 2021, with select Western markets being the exception. The COVID-19 related disruption is likely to cause up to $2.4 trillion in losses; the sector is expected to rebound only in 2023.
COVID-19 vaccination and certificates are key to restoring confidence in the tourism industry, a lifeline for many countries, especially small island nations that rely heavily on it to provide jobs.
According to the report by UNCTAD and the UN’s World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), in 2020, international arrivals plunged by 73% from pre-pandemic levels in 2019, causing an estimated losses of $2.4 trillion in tourism and related sectors,
“The outlook for this year doesn’t look much better,” said Ralf Peters of UNCTAD’s trade analysis branch. “The first three months were again bad, there was not much travelling happening. There is an expectation of a certain recovery in the second half of the year, at least for North America and Europe to a certain extent”.
The report sets out three scenarios for 2021, showing international tourism arrivals forecast to drop by between 63% and 75% from pre-pandemic levels, resulting in losses of between $1.7 trillion and $2.4 trillion.
“In international tourism we are at levels of 30 years ago, so basically we are in the ‘80s … Many livelihoods are really at threat,” said Zoritsa Urosevic, Geneva representative of the Madrid-based UNWTO while adding, “What we are looking at in the long run is…meeting the 2019 numbers after 2023”.
According to Sandra Carvao, UNWTO’s chief of market intelligence, it would be a “very diverse recovery”, varying by region and by country.
The European Union’s digital COVID-19 certificate, which is scheduled to come into force on Thursday, represents the only regional harmonisation to date, said Carvao.
In reference to travel corridors, she said: “We see for example Asia-Pacific is still one of the most closed regions in the world at this moment – most of the borders in the countries are either totally closed or with significant restrictions.”