The World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) expects international tourist arrivals could drop by 20% to 30% year-on-year in 2020, in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

This slump in travel could translate into a decline in international tourism receipts of between $300-450 billion – almost one third of the $1.5 trillion generated in 2019.

This would mean that between five and seven years’ worth of growth will be lost to Covid-19, said UNWTO.

“Putting this into context, UNWTO notes that in 2009, on the back of the global economic crisis, international tourist arrivals declined by 4%, while the Sars outbreak led to a decline of just 0.4% in 2003,” it added.

However, UNWTO stressed: “These numbers are based on the latest developments as the global community faces up to an unprecedented social and economic challenge and should be interpreted with caution in view of the extreme uncertain nature of the current crisis.”


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Zurab Pololikashvili, UNWTO secretary-general, said: “Tourism is among the hardest hit of all economic sectors.

“However, tourism is also united in helping to address this immense health emergency – our first and utmost priority – while working together to mitigate the impact of the crisis, particularly on employment, and to support the wider recovery efforts through providing jobs and driving economic welfare worldwide.”

UNWTO has been working closely with the wider United Nations system, including the World Health Organisation (WHO) to guide the sector, issuing key recommendations for high-level leaders and individual tourists.

A week ago, it established a global tourism crisis committee, bringing together key UN agencies, the chairs of its executive council and regional commissions, and private sector leaders.