Revenue from international tourism could reach $800 billion in 2021, a small improvement from 2020, but less than half the $1.7 trillion recorded in 2019, the UN’s World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) said on Monday.
According to the world tourism body, the economic contribution of tourism is estimated at $1.9 trillion in 2021 – well below the pre-pandemic value of $3.5 trillion. “Despite recent improvements, uneven vaccination rates around the world and new Covid-19 strains could impact the already slow and fragile recovery,” UNWTO said.
“The economic strain caused by the pandemic could also weigh on travel demand, aggravated by the recent spike in oil prices and disruption of supply chains.”
The UNWTO expects international tourist arrivals to remain 70 percent to 75 percent below 2019 levels in 2021, a similar decline as in 2020. The global tourism sector already lost $2 trillion in revenue last year due to the pandemic, according to the UNWTO, making it one of the hardest-hit sectors of the crisis.
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The forecast from the Madrid-based World Tourism Organization comes as Europe is grappling with a surge in infections and as a new heavily mutated Covid-19 variant, dubbed Omicron, spreads across the globe. While the UN body charged with promoting tourism does not have an estimate for how the sector will perform next year, its medium-term outlook is not encouraging.
While international tourism has taken a hit from the outbreak of the disease in the past, the coronavirus is unprecedented in its geographical spread. In addition to virus-related travel restrictions, the sector is also grappling with the economic strain caused by the pandemic, the spike in oil prices and the disruption of supply chains, the UNWTO said.
International tourist arrivals “rebounded” during the summer season in the Northern Hemisphere thanks to increased travel confidence, rapid vaccination and the easing of entry restrictions in many nations, the UNWTO said. “Despite the improvement in the third quarter, the pace of recovery remains uneven across world regions due to varying degrees of mobility restrictions, vaccination rates, and traveler confidence,” it added.
A total of 46 destinations — 21 percent of all destinations worldwide — currently have their borders completely closed to tourists, according to the UNWTO. A further 55 have their borders partially closed to foreign visitors, while just four nations have lifted all virus-related restrictions — Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic and Mexico.