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World tourism almost came to a standstill in April due to the Covid-19 crisis, with a 97% drop in the number of international arrivals, 180 million less than in the same month in 2019, after a 55% drop in March, according to data from the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO).

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While April was expected to be one of the busiest times of the year, due to the Easter holidays, the almost universal introduction of travel restrictions led to this large drop, with world tourism accumulating a 44% decline up to that month, resulting in a loss of approximately $195 million in revenue (‘174 billion). This is another sector that has fallen with the Covid crisis, unlike other sectors such as gambling sites industry.

Asia and the Pacific were the first regions to be affected by the pandemic, taking the worst hit between January and April 2020, with 51% fewer arrivals.

Europe recorded the second largest drop, falling by 44% over the same period, followed by the Middle East with 40%, the Americas with 36% and Africa with 35%.

At the beginning of May, the WTO established three possible scenarios for the tourism sector in 2020 that point to possible decreases in the total number of international tourists from 58% to 78%, depending on when travel restrictions are lifted.

In these three scenarios, the impact of the drop in demand could be a loss of between 850 million and 1.1 billion international tourists, and with them, between 910 billion and 1.2 trillion dollars (843 billion and 1.1 trillion euros) in global tourism revenue.

Between 100 and 120 million jobs in direct tourism employment are also threatened.

Restarting Tourism

Since mid-May, UNWTO has identified an increase in the number of destinations announcing measures to restart tourism such as the introduction of improved health and safety protocols and policies designed to promote domestic travel.

After several months of unprecedented disruption, tourism is beginning to restart in some areas, especially in Northern Hemisphere destinations, although travel restrictions remain in place in most countries, making it one of the most affected.

For UNWTO Secretary General Zurab Pololikashvili, it is “vital” that the resumption of tourism becomes a priority and is managed responsibly, protecting the most vulnerable and with health and safety as the main concern of the sector.

Until tourism is resumed everywhere, the UNWTO has again called for “strong support” for the sector to protect jobs and businesses, and therefore “welcomes” the steps taken by both the European Union and individual countries, including France and Spain, to support tourism economically and build the foundations for recovery.

Europe leads the way

 22% of the world’s destinations (48 destinations), with Europe leading the way, have begun to ease their travel restrictions introduced in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, allowing tourism to be revived in a growing number of destinations. However,

65% of the world’s destinations (141 destinations) keep their borders completely closed to international tourism.

The destinations that have eased travel restrictions for tourists are 37 destinations in Europe, including 24 of the 26 Schengen Member States, six destinations in the Americas, including five small island developing States, three destinations in Asia and the Pacific, including two small island developing States, and two destinations in Africa.

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