The coronavirus pandemic will likely cost the global tourism sector $2
trillion in lost revenue in 2021, the UN's tourism body said Monday, calling
the sector's recovery "fragile" and "slow."
According to the latest forecast
the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO
the same amount was lost in 2020, making it one of the sectors hit hardest by
the health crisis.
Despite recent improvements, the report warned that demand for travel could be
further affected by "uneven vaccination rates around the world and new COVID-19
which had prompted new travel restrictions in some countries.
In the past few days, the emergence of the Omicron
variant has led dozens of countries to reinstate restrictions on arrivals, or
to delay relaxation in COVID-19 travel and testing rules, leading to wide
uncertainty for holiday season travellers worldwide.
Spikes in oil prices and the disruption of global
supply chains have also had an effect. According to the latest UNWTO data,
international tourist arrivals are expected to remain 70-75 per cent below 2019
levels in 2021, a similar decline as in 2020.
Although a 58 per cent increase in tourist arrivals
was registered in July-September of this year compared to the same period in
2020, this remained 64 per cent below 2019 levels, the UN body found.
In August and September, arrivals were at 63 per cent
lower than 2019, which is the highest monthly result since the start of the coronavirus
Between January and September 2021, worldwide international tourist arrivals
stood at 20 per cent lower, compared to 2020, a clear improvement from the 54
per cent drop, over the first six months of the year.
“Data for the third quarter of 2021 is encouraging,”
UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said. “However, arrivals are still
76 per cent below pre-pandemic levels and results across the different global
regions remain uneven.”
In light of the rising cases and the emergence of new
variants, he added that “we cannot let our guard down and need to continue our
efforts to ensure equal access to vaccinations, coordinate travel
procedures, make use of digital vaccination certificates to facilitate
mobility, and continue to support the sector.”
Despite the improvement seen in the third quarter of
the year, the pace of recovery remains slow and uneven across world regions.
In some sub-regions, such as Southern and
Mediterranean Europe, the Caribbean, North and Central America, arrivals
actually rose above 2020 levels in the first nine months of 2021.
However, arrivals in Asia and the Pacific were down by
as much as 95 per cent when compared with 2019, as many destinations remained
closed to non-essential travel.
Africa and the Middle East recorded 74 per cent and 81
per cent drops respectively in the third quarter compared to 2019. Among the
larger destinations, Croatia, Mexico and Turkey showed the strongest recovery
in the period of July to September.