International arrivals have plunged 70 per cent in the first eight months of 2020, says the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer; a statistic that translates to a loss of US$730 billion in export revenues from international tourism – more than eight times the loss experienced as a result of the 2009 global economic and financial crisis.
Across the first eight months of 2020:
- Asia and the Pacific saw a 79-per-cent decrease in arrivals
- Africa and the Middle East both saw a 69-per-cent decrease
- Europe saw a 68-per-cent decrease
- the Americas saw a 65-per-cent decrease
For the months of July and August, Europe recorded comparatively smaller declines (at -72 per cent and -69 per cent respectively). However, as travel restrictions and advisories were reintroduced amid an increase in contagions, this went up again noted UNWTO.
For Asia and the Pacific, the regions recorded drastic declines of -96 per cent in both months, reflecting the closure of borders in China and other major destinations in the region.
An urgent need to ‘safely restart tourism’
UNWTO urges that this drastic decline in international arrivals is putting millions of jobs and businesses at risk. “This underlines the urgent need to safely restart tourism, in a timely and co-ordinated manner,” said UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili.
But demand for travel remains largely subdued, noted UNWTO, due to ongoing uncertainty about the pandemic and low confidence.
However, over at ITIJ, we’ve already witnessed numerous members of the travel industry coming up with clever solutions to help rebuild customer confidence – including international insurers launching new Covid-19 cover for travellers, destinations stepping up their health and safety travel initiatives and airlines updating their flexible booking policies and helping to build confidence in flying.
Rebound in international travel expected in 2021
UNWTO also notes it expects to see a rebound in international tourism in Q3 of 2021, or when travel restrictions start to really ease up.
“Travel restrictions are seen as the main barrier standing in the way of the recovery of international tourism, along with slow virus containment and low consumer confidence,” UNWTO wrote on its website. “The lack of co-ordinated response among countries to ensure harmonised protocols and co-ordinated restrictions, as well as the deteriorating economic environment, were also identified by experts as important obstacles for recovery.”