The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) is reporting that, in January, there was an 87% fall in international tourist arrivals compared to 2020.
Additionally, given the current trends, it expects international tourist arrivals to be down about 85% in the first quarter of 2021.
As the impact of COVID-19 continues has carried into 2021, the UNWTO is continuing its call for stronger coordination on travel protocols between countries to ensure a safe restart of tourism and avoid another year of massive losses.
According to the latest edition of the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, all world regions continued to experience large drops in tourist arrivals in the first month of 2021.
Mandatory testing, quarantines, and in some cases the complete closure of borders, have all hindered the resumption of international travel, the UNWTO says.
In addition, the speed and distribution of the vaccination roll-out have been slower than expected, further delaying the restart of tourism.
All global regions hit hard
The UNWTO says the international community needs to take strong and urgent action to ensure a brighter 2021.
“Many millions of livelihoods and businesses are depending on it,” the organization said.
Asia and the Pacific (-96%), which has the highest level of travel restrictions in place, recorded the largest decrease in international arrivals in January.
Europe and Africa both saw a decline of 85% in arrivals, while the Middle East recorded a drop of 84%.
International arrivals in the Americas decreased by 77% in January, following somewhat better results in the last quarter of the year.
“2020 was the worst year on record for tourism. The international community needs to take strong and urgent action to ensure a brighter 2021. Many millions of livelihoods and businesses are depending on it. Improved coordination between countries and harmonized travel and health protocols are essential to restore confidence in tourism and allow international travel to resume safely ahead of the peak summer season in the northern hemisphere,” said UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili.
With 32% of all global destinations completely closed to international tourists at the beginning of February, UNWTO anticipates a challenging first few months of 2021 for global tourism.
As mentioned, UNWTO expects international tourist arrivals to be down about 85% in the first quarter of 2021 over the same period of 2019, representing a loss of some 260 million international arrivals when compared to pre-pandemic levels.
Looking ahead, UNWTO has outlined two scenarios based on factors, such as the lifting of travel restrictions, vaccination programmes and harmonized protocols like the Digital Green Certificate planned by the European Commission.
The first scenario points to a rebound in July, which would result in a 66% increase in international arrivals for the year 2021 compared to the historic lows of 2020.
In this case, arrivals would still be 55% below the levels recorded in 2019.
The second scenario considers a potential rebound in September, leading to a 22% increase in arrivals compared to last year. Still, this would be 67% below the levels of 2019.
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