The sudden and unexpected fall in tourism caused by Covid-19 could devastate the economies of small island developing states, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).
In its second Briefing Note series on Tourism and Covid-19, the UNWTO said on Monday that tourism accounts for more than 30 percent of total exports in the majority of the 38 developing island states.
In some countries, this proportion is as high as 90 percent, making them especially vulnerable to falling tourist numbers.
Such a major shock translates into a massive loss of jobs and a sharp decline in foreign exchange and tax revenues, the tourism organisation said, warning this could curb public spending capacity and the ability to deploy necessary measures to support livelihoods through the crisis.
In 2019, small island developing states welcomed some 44 million international tourist arrivals and the sector earned $55 billion in export revenues. In the first four months of this year, however, international tourist arrivals were down 47 percent.
UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said, "The Covid-19 pandemic has caused an unprecedented disruption. International tourist arrivals have fallen dramatically, and destinations that rely on the sector for jobs and economic wellbeing, such as small islands, will be hit the hardest.
"As such, measures to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 on these states and to stimulate the recovery of tourism are now more critical than ever," he added.
The United Nations estimates that these small island economies could shrink by 4.7 percent in 2020 as compared to 3 percent for the world economy.
The UNWTO Briefing Note also highlighted the risk posed to those working in the informal economy by the sudden fall in tourist arrivals in these island states.
As a sector, tourism is a leading global employer and, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO), more than half of all workers in the accommodation and food services sector in most developing island states are women. In many, this proportion is even higher, such as over 70 percent in Haiti and Trinidad and Tobago.
At the same time, workers in the informal economy are at risk of falling into poverty as the impact of Covid-19 is felt in small island developing states and other low and middle-income countries worldwide, the UNWTO also warned.