• International tourism loses $320 billion from Jan-May 2020
  • 300 million fewer people traveled overseas compared to last year
  • 40% of all destinations worldwide have now eased the restrictions
  • Experts believe international tourism will not recover before H2 2021

The tourism industry lost $320 billion in revenues in the first five months of the year as international travel came to a standstill during the pandemic, according to the United Nations World Tourism Barometer. This is more than three times the loss during the Global Economic Crisis of 2009. International tourist arrivals (overnight visitors) saw a decrease of 56%, or 300 million fewer people, compared to the same period in 2019. It was 98% lower in May when compared to 2019.

There have been signs of a gradual and cautious change in trend, but confidence is low. A little over half the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Panel of Experts believe international tourism will only recover in the second half of 2021. Domestic tourism, however, is expected to resume much faster. Half of respondents see a recovery by the second half of 2020, in line with the restart of tourism in many destinations in June and July. The remaining half expect a recovery throughout 2021.

Source: UNWTO
Source: UNWTO.

According to the latest analysis from the UNWTO, 40% of all destinations worldwide have now eased the restrictions they placed on international tourism in response to COVID-19. This is up from 22% of destinations on 15 June and 3% on 15 May. Of the 87 destinations that have now eased travel restrictions, just four have completely lifted all restrictions, while 83 have eased them while keeping some measures such as the partial closure of borders in place. 

Major international airlines like American and United Air Lines, have lost billions of dollars in revenue and have cut their flight schedules to trim expenses. Despite those cuts, airlines have been laying off workers and calling for voluntary retirements among their white-collar workforces.

“This latest data makes clear the importance of restarting tourism as soon as it is safe to do so," said UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili. "The dramatic fall in international tourism places many millions of livelihoods at risk, including in developing countries. Governments in every world region have a dual responsibility: to prioritize public health while also protecting jobs and businesses."