A new report warns that the pandemic could lead to a collapse in international tourism, which would result in a loss of $4 trillion to global GDP for 2020-2021.
The direct effect of Covid-19 and its ripple effect in other sectors on tourism has caused the estimated loss.
This study was jointly presented today with UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO). It estimates that international tourism and closely related sectors suffered a loss of $2.4 trillion in 2020 as a result of direct and indirect effects of a sharp drop in international tourists arrivals.
The report warns of similar losses in the future, as the recovery of the tourism sector is heavily dependent on the availability of Covid-19 vaccines worldwide.
According to the report, the tourism sector will recover quicker in countries that have high vaccination rates such as France and Switzerland, the UK, and the US.
UNWTO reports that experts don't expect an increase in international tourist arrivals to pre-Covid-19 levels until 2023, or later.
Travel restrictions, slow cure, low confidence in travelers, and poor economic conditions are the main obstacles.
Although international tourism will rebound in the second half this year, the UN Conference on Trade and Development's (UNCTAD), report still shows that there is a loss between $1.7 trillion and $2.4 billion in 2021 compared to 2019.
UNCTAD had estimated that an international tourism stoppage of four to twelve months would result in a global economic slowdown of $1.2 trillion to $3.3 trillion. This includes indirect costs.
However, the losses are much worse than expected. Even the worst-case scenario that was projected last year turned out to be optimistic. International travel has remained low for more than 15 months since the pandemic began.
Between January 2020 and December 2020, international tourist arrivals fell by approximately one billion (or 73%). The UNWTO reports a decrease of 88% in international tourist arrivals during the first quarter 2021.
The greatest impact of pandemics on tourism has been felt in developing countries. These countries saw the greatest drop in tourist arrivals between 60% and 80% in 2020.
North-east Asia and south-east Asia are the most affected regions. Oceania and North Africa are the least affected. North America, western Europe, and the Caribbean are the least affected.
Tourism losses in developed countries are lower than in the majority of countries, but they are worse in developing countries due to Covid-19 vaccinations.
The rates of vaccination vary from below 1% in some countries to over 60% in others.
According to the report, the asymmetric rollout of vaccines can increase the economic damage that tourism has suffered in developing nations, accounting for as much as 60% of global GDP losses.
UNCTAD acting secretary general Isabelle Durant stated: The world requires a global vaccine effort that will protect workers and mitigate adverse social effects. It will also make strategic decisions about tourism taking into consideration potential structural changes.
Zurab Pololikashvili, UNWTO secretary general, said: Tourism is vital for millions. Advancing vaccination to protect communities, support tourism's safe restart, is crucial to the recovery and creation of jobs, particularly in developing countries which are heavily dependent on international tourists.