International tourism in 2020 could plunge by 60-80 percent due to the Covid-19 pandemic, leading to revenue losses of $910 billion to $1.2 trillion, putting millions of livelihoods at risk, according to the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO).
The global international agency said that the pandemic has caused a 22 percent fall in international tourist arrivals during the first quarter of 2020, reports the Times of India.
According to the United Nations specialized agency, the global health crisis could lead to an annual tourism decline between 60 percent and 80 percent when compared with the 2019 figures.
"This places millions of livelihoods at risk and threatens to roll back progress made in advancing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)," it said.
"The world is facing an unprecedented health and economic crisis. Tourism has been hit hard, with millions of jobs at risk in one of the most labour-intensive sectors of the economy," UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said.
Available data reported by destinations point to a 22 percent decline in arrivals in the first three months of the year, according to the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer.
Arrivals in March dropped sharply by 57 percent following the start of a lockdown in many countries, as well as the widespread introduction of travel restrictions and the closure of airports and national borders. This translates into a loss of 67 million international arrivals and about $80 billion in receipts (exports from tourism).
Although Asia and the Pacific show the highest impact in relative and absolute terms (a decline of 33 million arrivals), the impact in Europe, though lower in percentage, is quite high in volume (-22 million), the agency said.
Prospects for the year have been downgraded several times since the outbreak and uncertainty continues to dominate.
Current scenarios point to possible declines in arrivals of 58 percent to 78 percent for the year. These depend on the speed of containment and the duration of travel restrictions and the shutdown of borders.
The agency has given three scenarios for 2020 based on possible dates for the gradual opening up of international borders. According to scenario 1, there could be a decline of 58 percent in arrivals based on the gradual opening of international borders and the easing of travel restrictions in early July.
Scenario 2 could see a 70 percent decline if international borders are gradually opened and travel restrictions are eased in early September. Scenario 3 states that there could be a 78 percent decline in arrivals based on the gradual opening of international borders and easing of travel restrictions only in early December.
Under these scenarios, the impact of the loss of demand in international travel could translate into a loss of 850 million to 1.1 billion international tourists, loss of $910 billion to $1.2 trillion in export revenues from tourism and 100 to 120 million direct tourism jobs at risk.
"This is by far the worst crisis that international tourism has faced since records began (1950). The impact will be felt to varying degrees in the different global regions and at overlapping times, with Asia and the Pacific expected to rebound first," the agency said.
The Covid-19 pandemic, spread across every country on the planet, has so far infected 4.1 million people and killed 282,719 people. The US has been the worst-affected country with 1.3 million confirmed coronavirus cases and nearly 80,000 deaths.
Domestic demand is expected to recover faster than international demand, according to the UNWTO Panel of Experts survey. The majority expects to see signs of recovery by the final quarter of 2020 but mostly in 2021.
Based on previous crises, leisure travel is expected to recover quicker, particularly travel for visiting friends and relatives, than business travel.
The estimates regarding the recovery of international travel is more positive in Africa and the Middle East with most experts foreseeing recovery still in 2020.
Experts in the Americas are the least optimistic and least likely to believe in recovery in 2020, while in Europe and Asia, the outlook is mixed, with half of the experts expecting to see recovery within this year.