International arrivals fell by 72 per cent over the first ten months of 2020, with restrictions on travel, low consumer confidence and a global struggle to contain the Covid-19 virus, all contributing to the worst year on record in the history of tourism.
According to the latest tourism data from the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), destinations welcomed 900 million fewer international tourists between January and October when compared with the same period of 2019.
This translates into a loss of US$935 billion in export revenues from international tourism, more than ten times the loss in 2009 under the impact of the global economic crisis.
UNWTO secretary-general, Zurab Pololikashvili, said: “Since the start of this crisis, UNWTO has provided governments and businesses with trusted data showing the unprecedented impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on global tourism.
“Even as the news of a vaccine boosts traveller confidence, there is still a long road to recovery.
“We thus need to step up our efforts to safely open borders while supporting tourism jobs and businesses.
“It is ever clearer that tourism is one of the most affected sectors by this unprecedented crisis.”
Based on the current evidence, UNWTO expects international arrivals to decline by 70-75 per cent for the whole of 2020.
In this case, global tourism will have returned to levels of 30 years ago, with one billion fewer arrivals and a loss of some US$ 1.1 trillion in international tourism receipts.
This massive drop in tourism due to the pandemic could result in an economic loss of US$2 trillion in world GDP.
Asia and the Pacific, the first region to suffer the impact of the pandemic and the one with the highest level of travel restrictions to date, saw an 82 per cent decrease in arrivals in the first ten months of 2020.
The Middle East recorded a 73 per cent decline, while Africa saw a 69 per cent drop.
International arrivals in both Europe and the Americas declined by 68 per cent.
Europe recorded smaller decreases of 72 per cent and 76 per cent in September and October compared to other world regions, following the slight though short-lived recovery in the summer peak months of July and August.
The resurgence of the virus across the region has led to the reintroduction of some forms of travel restrictions.
However, Europe is the region in which more destinations (91 per cent as of November) have eased such restrictions, mainly among Schengen member states.