International tourist arrivals to drop by 30% this year

Catherine Talavera - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — International tourist arrivals are expected to drop by 20 to 30 percent this year, the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) said as it updates its assessment of the likely impact of coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19 pandemic on international tourism.

“Taking into account the unparalleled introduction of travel restrictions across the world, the United Nations specialized agency for tourism expects that international tourist arrivals will drop by 20 to 30 percent in 2020 when compared with 2019 figures,” the UNWTO said.

“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,” it said.

The UNWTO earlier forecast a three to four percent rise in international arrivals this year. This was later revised to a one to three percent drop in international arrivals for this year.

In 2019, tourist arrivals to worldwide destinations grew four percent to 1.46 billion, meeting the UNWTO’s three to four percent target growth for the year. This was the tenth consecutive year of growth of international tourist arrivals.

The UNWTO said an expected fall of between 20 and 30 percent in international tourist arrivals could translate into a decline in international tourism receipts (exports) of between $300 billion and $450 billion, almost one third of the $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,” the UNWTO said.

The UNWTO noted that in 2009, on the back of the global economic crisis, international tourist arrivals declined by four percent, while the SARS outbreak led to a decline of just 0.4 percent in 2003.

“Tourism is among the hardest hit of all economic sectors,” UNWTO secretary-general Zurab Pololikashvili said.

“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,” he said.

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