MADRID: The coronavirus pandemic will cost the global tourism sector $ 2 trillion in lost revenue in 2021, the UN tourism body said on Monday, calling the sector’s recovery “fragile” and “slow “.
Predictions from the Madrid-based World Tourism Organization come as Europe grapples with an increase in infections and a new, highly mutated Covid-19 variant dubbed Omicron spreads across the world .
International tourist arrivals this year will remain 70 to 75% lower than the 1.5 billion arrivals recorded in 2019 before the pandemic, a drop similar to that of 2020, according to the organization.
The global tourism sector has already lost $ 2.0 trillion (â¬ 1.78 trillion) in revenue last year due to the pandemic, according to the UNWTO, making it one of the most hardest hit by the health crisis.
Although the United Nations agency responsible for promoting tourism does not have an estimate of how the sector will perform next year, its medium-term outlook is not encouraging.
“Despite recent improvements, uneven vaccination rates around the world and new strains of Covid-19” such as the Delta variant and Omicron “could impact the already slow and fragile recovery,” he said in a press release.
The introduction of new restrictions and virus lockdowns in several countries in recent weeks shows how “it is a very unpredictable situation,” UNWTO chief Zurab Pololikashvili told AFP.
“This is a historic crisis in the tourism industry, but once again, tourism has the power to recover quite quickly,” he added before the start of the UNWTO’s annual general meeting. in Madrid on Tuesday.
“I really hope 2022 will be a lot better than 2021.”
While international tourism has been affected by the disease outbreak in the past, the coronavirus is unprecedented in its geographic spread.
In addition to travel restrictions linked to the virus, the industry is also grappling with economic pressure from the pandemic, soaring oil prices and disruption of supply chains, UNWTO said.
Pololikashvili urged nations to harmonize their virus protocols and restrictions because tourists “are confused and they don’t know how to travel.”
International tourist arrivals “rebounded” during the summer season in the northern hemisphere thanks to increased confidence in travel, rapid vaccination and the easing of entry restrictions in many countries, UNWTO said.
“Despite the improvement in the third quarter, the pace of the recovery remains uneven across regions of the world due to varying degrees of mobility restrictions, vaccination rates and traveler confidence,” he added.
Arrivals to some islands in the Caribbean and South Asia, as well as some destinations in southern Europe, have approached or even exceeded pre-pandemic levels in the third quarter.
However, other countries saw little sight of tourists, especially in Asia and the Pacific, where arrivals were down 95% from 2019 as many destinations remained closed to non-essential travel.
A total of 46 destinations – 21% of all destinations in the world – currently have their borders completely closed to tourists, according to UNWTO.
Another 55 have their borders partially closed to foreign visitors, while only four countries have lifted all restrictions related to the virus – Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic and Mexico.
The future of the travel industry will be the focus of attention at the WTO’s annual general meeting, which runs through Friday.
The event – which brings together representatives of 159 member states of the United Nations body – was originally scheduled to be held in Marrakech.
But Morocco decided at the end of October not to host the event due to the increase in Covid-19 cases in many countries.
Before the pandemic, the tourism sector accounted for around 10% of gross domestic product and jobs worldwide.