Experts at the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) are predicting that the global tourism sector will need up to four years to recover from the financial damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which triggered the worst crisis in the history of the industry, UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili told Sputnik in an interview
MOSCOW (Pakistan Point News / Sputnik - 18th May, 2021) Experts at the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) are predicting that the global tourism sector will need up to four years to recover from the financial damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which triggered the worst crisis in the history of the industry, UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili told Sputnik in an interview.
According to UNWTO data, international tourist arrivals plunged by 74% in 2020, causing an estimated loss of $1.3 trillion in revenue, a decline 11 times greater than the global economic crash of 2009.
"This is the worst crisis in the history of tourism. In April and May, last year, 100% of global destinations had introduced full or partial restrictions on tourist arrivals, and we also saw an unprecedented fall in demand for travel and tourism," Pololikashvili, who at the start of the year was nominated to lead the UN agency for another four years, said.
COVID-19 is continuing to have a devastating impact on the global tourism sector into 2021, as the emergence of new highly transmissible variants, such as the strains first identified in the United Kingdom, South Africa, and India, has prompted another wave of border closures.
International tourist arrivals are set to rise in 2021 compared to the preceding year by between 22% and 55%, UNWTO experts predict, although the industry as a whole may not recover from the COVID-19 pandemic for four years.
"UNWTO does draw on a Panel of Experts, made up of public and private sector leaders from every global region. They estimate global tourism may need between two-and-a-half and four years to return to 2019 levels," Pololikashvili remarked.
As many as 120 million tourism jobs have been put at risk around the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the UNWTO secretary-general called on governments to provide both economic and practical support to help businesses survive.
"Governments need to give tourism businesses the economic and practical support they need to survive and be in a position to drive wider recovery. At the global level, coordination is key. The restart of tourism is vital. To ensure this happens, we need harmonized rules and protocols," Pololikashvili stated.
The UNWTO secretary-general also said that the agency is expecting domestic tourism to return to growth before international tourism does, adding that there is still a strong demand for sustainable tourism.
At a meeting of the G20 tourism ministers earlier in May, Pololikashvili called for the implementation of "common, harmonized criteria" for the lifting of travel restrictions, according to a UNWTO press release.
The tourism ministers of the G20 nations also discussed ways to promote the digital and green transformations of the travel and tourism economy.