By Eurasia Business News – January 13, 2021

Since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemics in January 2020, the tourism industry has been struggling with a sharp decline of its activity, in spite of a slight recovery in summer. Photo credits : Pexels.

The tourism industry around the world has lost $ 935 billion because of the coronavirus pandemic in the first ten months of 2020, reported the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). This sharp fall made the global tourism to return to its level in 1990.

In the period from January to October, tourist destinations received 900 million fewer foreign tourists compared to the same period in 2019. This resulted in a loss of $ 935 billion in export revenues from international tourism”, revealed the UNWTO.

This is more than 10 times the loss in 2009 under the impact of the global economic crisis.

Based on the current data, UNWTO expects international arrivals to decline by 70% to 75% for the whole of 2020. In this case, global tourism will have returned to levels of 30 years ago, with 1 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”, forecasts the UN institution.

The number of trips to the Asia-Pacific region in the first ten months of this year decreased by 82%, to the Middle East by 73%, to Africa by 69%, and to Europe and America by 68%.

Europe recorded smaller decreases of 72% and 76% 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% as of 1 November 2020) have eased such restrictions, mainly among Schengen Member States.

International flights have been discontinued since the end of March 2020. Now travellers can fly only to some countries, depending on their home country.

The stakeholders of the travel market believe that beach tourism will be able to restore the fastest demand while the renewed interest in cultural and educational travel will be delayed.

In 2018, Europe represented almost 40% of international tourism receipts, followed by Asia and the Pacific with almost one third. Because of the COVID-19 pandemics and the several lockdowns worldwide, these figures have sharply fallen.

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”, concluded the UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili.

Asia and the Pacific continued to record declines of nearly 100% in September and October 2020, reflecting the ongoing closure of borders in China and other major destinations in the region. The Americas has seen a gradual improvement since June with comparatively lower decreases in international arrivals through October. This reflects the reopening of many destinations in the region, including small island developing states in the Caribbean.

Demand remains weak overall

Data on international tourism expenditure continues to reflect very weak demand for outbound travel. People are still worried.  However, some large markets such as the United States, Germany and France have shown some signs of recovery in the recent months. Furthermore, demand for domestic tourism continues to grow in some markets, including both China and Russia.

Looking ahead, the announcement of a vaccine and the start of vaccination are expected to gradually increase consumer confidence. At the same time, a growing number of destinations are easing or lifting restrictions on travel. According to the latest research from UNWTO, the proportion of closed destinations has dropped from 82% in late April 2020 to 18% in early November (expressed in percentage of international arrivals).

The extended scenarios for 2021-2024 presented by the United Nations specialized agency for tourism point to a rebound by the second half of 2021. Nonetheless, a return to 2019 levels in terms of international arrivals could take between two-and-a-half and four years.

On September 4, the European Commission  adopted  a proposal for a Council recommendation to ensure that all measures taken by Member States which restrict free movement due to the coronavirus pandemic are coordinated and clearly communicated at the EU level. The Commission has made available an internet site aiming at centralizing this information and make it possible for citizens and foreigners to know what restrictions have been put in place by each member country: Re-open EU.

On October 13, the EU member states adopted a recommendation to coordinate measures restricting free movement. A map, produced by the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, is published weekly. 

Faced with the worsening health crisis in the United Kingdom, the European Commission adopted on December 22 a recommendation on a coordinated approach to measures in the field of travel and transport. The text has yet to be adopted by the Council of the European Union and is largely inspired by the recommendations issued last October.

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