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UNWTO: Covid-19 could push tourism back to 2013 levels

The World Tourism Organisation has released an updated assessment of the likely impact of the Covid-19 on international tourism.

Considering the unparalleled introduction of travel restrictions across the world, the United Nations specialised agency for tourism expects that international tourist arrivals will be down by 20-30 per cent in 2020 when compared with 2019 figures.

However, UNWTO stresses that these numbers are based on the latest developments as the global community faces up to an unprecedented social and economic challenge and should be interpreted with caution in view of the extreme uncertain nature of the current crisis.

An expected fall of this magnitude could translate into a decline in international tourism receipts (exports) of between US$300-450 billion, almost one third of the US$ 1.5 trillion generated in 2019.

Taking into account past market trends, this would mean that between five- and seven-years’ worth of growth will be lost to Covid-19.

Putting this into context, UNWTO notes that in 2009, on the back of the global economic crisis, international tourist arrivals declined by four per cent, while the SARS outbreak led to a decline of just 0.4 per cent in 2003.

UNWTO Secretary-General, Zurab Pololikashvili, said: “Tourism is among the hardest hit of all economic sectors.

“However, tourism is also united in helping to address this immense health emergency – our first and utmost priority – while working together to mitigate the impact of the crisis, particularly on employment, and to support the wider recovery efforts through providing jobs and driving economic welfare worldwide.”

Pololikashvili added that, while it is too early to make a full assessment of the likely impact of Covid-19 on tourism, it is clear that millions of jobs within the sector are at risk of being lost.

Around 80 per cent of all tourism businesses are small-and-medium-sized enterprises.

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