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Published on Friday, January 29, 2021

WTO figures lay bare the 'worst year in tourism history'

Tourism suffered its most catastrophic year on record in 2020 - but this year could be even worse.

The UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) warned that nearly a third of respondents in its Panel of Experts survey feared conditions will hit new depths this year before improving in 2022.

A quarter expect a similar performance while 45% believe 2021 will be better than 2020.

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said: "While much has been made in making safe international travel a possibility, we are aware that the crisis is far from over."

The global tourism body said there were one billion fewer international arrivals in 2020, down 74%, with a loss in export revenues of USD$1.3 trillion, 11 times worse than during the 2009 global financial crisis.

During the GFC, international arrivals fell 4%, a still significant figure but incomparable to the damage caused by Covid. 

Up to 120 million jobs could be lost due to the pandemic, the UNWTO warned.

Europe recorded a 70% decline in arrivals in 2020, with 500 million fewer trips, with Asia Pacific down 84%, the Middle East and Africa 75% and the Americas 69%.

Pololikashvili said the 'harmonisation, coordination and digitisation of Covid-19 travel-related risk reduction measures - including testing, tracing and vaccination certificates - are 'essential foundations to promote safe travel and prepare for the recovery of tourism'.

By Steve Jones, Contributing Editor (UK)

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