Depending on the speed of containment, the duration of travel restrictions, and the shutdown of borders, the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) projects international tourism to decline by 58 percent to 78 percent year on year in 2020.

This places millions of livelihoods at risk and threatens to roll back progress made in advancing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the UN tourism body said on Thursday.

As tourism is one of the most labor-intensive sectors of the economy, the coronavirus crisis will put 100 million to 120 million direct tourism jobs at risk, the UNWTO said.

It projected that the crisis would lead to a loss of USD910 billion to USD1.2 trillion in export revenues from tourism this year.

Calling the crisis by far the worst that international tourism has faced since records began in 1950, the UNWTO said the impact would be felt in varying degrees in different global regions and at overlapping times, with Asia and the Pacific expected to rebound first.

Citing a UNWTO Panel of Experts survey, the report said domestic demand is expected to recover faster than international demand, with the majority expecting 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 more quickly – particularly travel to see friends and relatives – than business travel.

The latest data from the organization shows international tourist arrivals slipped 22 percent in the first quarter of 2020, compared to the same quarter last year.

“Although Asia and the Pacific show the highest impact in relative and absolute terms (minus 33 million arrivals), the impact in Europe, though lower in percentage, is quite high in volume (minus 22 million),” it said.

The virus’s impact was felt in earnest this March with the widespread introduction of travel restrictions and the closure of airports and national borders, pushing tourism figure down 57 percent year on year.

This translates into a loss of 67 million international arrivals and about USD80 billion in receipts (exports from tourism), the UNWTO said. (Anadolu via PNA)