Global Tourism Industry Lost $1.3 Trillion Revenue in 2020, UN Says

The global tourism industry lost $1.3 trillion in export revenues in 2020, making it the “worst year in tourism history,’ as the number of travelers significantly dropped due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the United Nations said.

The 2020 lost revenue amounted to “more than 11 times the loss recorded during the 2009 global economic crisis” that was a 4% decline, the World Tourism Organization (WTO), a specialized agency of the UN, said in a statement on Jan. 28.

According to the data gathered by WTO, international tourist arrivals plunged by 74% as international tourist destinations received 1 billion fewer international travelers last year “due to an unprecedented fall in demand and widespread travel restrictions” brought by the pandemic.

Data from WTO also revealed that Asia and the Pacific, the first region that faced the impact of the pandemic, recorded the largest decline in international arrivals, dropping by 84% or 300 million fewer than in 2019.

However, Europe faced the “largest drop in absolute terms” with a 70% decrease in arrivals or over 500 million fewer international tourists “despite a small and short-lived revival in the summer of 2020,” according to WTO.

Meanwhile, Africa and the Middle East both recorded a 75% decrease in arrivals and the Americas recorded a 69% drop.

The WTO also warned that between 100 and 120 million direct tourism jobs were at risk due to the pandemic.

The report also noted that several countries are re-imposing stricter travel restrictions, including closure of borders, “due to the evolving nature of the pandemic” amid a gradual rollout of the vaccine that is expected to “slowly normalize travel” this year.

“While much has been made in making safe international travel a possibility, we are aware that the crisis is far from over,” WTO Head Zurab Pololikashvili said.

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