Tuesday,  May 11, 2021  10:50 pm

Global tourism has dropped to 1990 levels, says UNWTO

Global tourism has dropped to 1990 levels, says UNWTO
Singer Sinéad O'Connor.

For some, 1990 was the year of Nothing Compares 2 U by Sinéad O'Connor. For others, it was Vogue by Madonna. And for others, it was Pump Up the Jam by Technotronic.

Good memories, perhaps, but from an already-distant time. 

However, this journey through time, global tourism is accomplishing for real, in 2020, according to the latest data from the World Tourism Organization. 

Based on current evidence, UNWTO expects international arrivals to decrease by 70-75% for all of 2020.

In this case, global tourism will have returned to levels of 30 years ago, with a billion fewer arrivals and a loss of some US $ 1,100 billion in international tourism receipts.

"This collapse in tourism due to the pandemic could lead to an economic loss of US $2,000 billion of global GDP," warns the UNWTO.

Still a long road to recovery 

The causes of “the worst year on record in tourism history” are no mystery. These are the global fight to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, travel restrictions and low consumer confidence.

Unfortunately, travel restrictions continue to dampen recovery, UNWTO laments.

“Even as the news of a vaccine boosts traveller confidence, there is still a long road to recovery. We thus need to step up our efforts to safely open borders while supporting tourism jobs and businesses. It is ever clearer that tourism is one of the most affected sectors by this unprecedented crisis," said UNWTO Secretary General Zurab Pololikashvili .

A rebound in the second half of 2021? The extended scenarios for 2021-2024 presented by the UNWTO show a rebound for the second half of 2021. This is encouraging.

Nevertheless, a return to 2019 levels in terms of international arrivals could take between two and a half and four years,  predicts the UNWTO.

Meanwhile, UNWTO notes that, while international arrivals have declined everywhere this year, the decline has been somewhat less marked in the Americas.

“This reflects the reopening of many destinations in the region, including small island developing states in the Caribbean," said the UNWTO.

At the same time, a growing number of destinations are now relaxing or lifting travel restrictions.

According to the latest UNWTO research, the proportion of closed destinations increased from 82% at the end of April 2020 to 18% at the beginning of November (expressed as a percentage of international arrivals).

“A coordinated approach to easing and lifting restrictions on travel whenever is it safe to do so is essential. This will not only open destinations up to tourism again, but clear and consistent rules between countries will go a long way towards building back trust in international travel and boosting consumer confidence," said Mr. Pololikashvili.

Clear and consistent rules between countries, he said, will go a long way in restoring confidence in international travel and increasing consumer confidence.

About tourism spending

UNWTO also provides data on international tourism expenditure. Unsurprisingly, they reflect the very low demand for overseas travel.

Nonetheless, some major markets like the United States, Germany and France have shown signs of recovery in recent months.

In addition, domestic tourism demand continues to grow in some markets, including China and Russia.