70-percent drop in international tourism seen

Published November 9, 2020, 6:39 PM

by Hanah Tabios

As travel restrictions continue to impact the world, international tourism arrivals plunged further, the recent report from the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) said. 

The demand for travel also remains largely subdued due to the ongoing uncertainty about the pandemic and low confidence, with the UN agency expecting an overall drop close to 70 percent for the whole of 2020.

The UNWTO said 70 percent decline in international arrivals was  recorded for the first eight months of the year, with the months of July and August suffering the most.

Data from the UN World Tourism Barometer revealed that international arrivals plunged 81 percent in July and 79 percent in August, traditionally the two busiest months of the year and the peak of the Northern Hemisphere summer season.

The drop until August represents 700 million fewer arrivals compared to the same period in 2019 and translates into a loss of $730 billion in export revenues from international tourism. 

The agency said this is more than eight times the loss experienced on the back of the 2009 global economic and financial crisis.

“This unprecedented decline is having dramatic social and economic consequences, and puts millions of jobs and businesses at risk,” UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said. 

 “This underlines the urgent need to safely restart tourism, in a timely and coordinated manner.”

On the regional level, Asia and the Pacific recorded the largest declines with -96 percent in both months, reflecting the closure of borders in China and other major destinations in the region

To recall, Asia and the Pacific was the first region to suffer from the impact of COVID-19, which saw a 79 percent decrease in arrivals, followed by Africa and the Middle East with both – 69 percent, Europe with -68 percent, and the Americas -65 percent.

But Europe recorded comparatively smaller declines in the said months (-72 percent and -69 percent, respectively), following its gradual reopening of international borders. 

“The recovery was short-lived however, as travel restrictions and advisories were reintroduced amid an increase in contagions,” the UN agency said. 

But the UNWTO’s Panel of Experts foresees a rebound in international tourism in 2021, mostly in the third quarter of next year.

Around 20 percent of experts, however, suggested that the rebound could occur only in 2022, with travel restrictions being seen as the main barrier standing in the way of the recovery of international tourism, along with slow virus containment and low consumer confidence. 

The lack of coordinated response among countries to ensure harmonized protocols and coordinated restrictions, as well as the deteriorating economic environment were also identified by experts as important obstacles for recovery.