UNWTO predicts 60-80 pct fall in int'l tourism

UNWTO predicts 60-80 pct fall in int'l tourism

The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) predicted Thursday that international tourist arrivals could fall between 60 to 80 percent in 2020 due to COVID-19, Xinhua reports.

The Madrid-based organization highlighted in a press communique that the first quarter of the year saw a 22-percent fall in tourist numbers compared with 2019, with 67 million fewer people making international trips as the impact of the coronavirus began to be felt on the travel sector.

March was the worst-affected month, with a 57 percent decline in international arrivals as many countries introduce lockdowns and close borders to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The organization highlighted that the reduction in the number of travelers between January and March led to a loss of around 80 billion U.S. dollars in revenue. As the pandemic continues, it could cause an annual decline of 60-80 percent in international travelers, depending on when travel restrictions are lifted.

This would see the loss of between "910 billion to 1.2 trillion dollars in export revenues from tourism" and place "100 to 120 million direct tourism jobs at risk," said the organization, which described the pandemic as "the worst crisis international tourism has faced since records began."

"The world is facing an unprecedented health and economic crisis. Tourism has been hit hard, with millions of jobs at risk in one of the most labor-intensive sectors of the economy," commented UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili.

The UNWTO added that it expects to see a recovery in 2021 with "Asia and the Pacific expected to rebound first."

The communique came a day after the Spanish Statistical Office reported a 64 percent drop in international tourist arrivals during March.