MADRID: The coronavirus pandemic will cost the global tourism sector US$2 trillion in lost revenue in 2021, the UN’s tourism body said Monday, calling the sector’s recovery “fragile” and “slow”.
The forecast from the Madrid-based World Tourism Organization comes as Europe is grappling with a surge in infections and as a new heavily mutated Covid-19 variant, dubbed Omicron, spreads across the globe, report agencies.
The global tourism sector already lost US$2 trillion in revenues last year due to the pandemic, according to the UNWTO, making it one of sectors hit hardest by the health crisis.
While the UN body charged with promoting tourism does not have an estimate for how the sector will perform next year, its medium-term outlook is not encouraging.
“Despite the recent improvements, uneven vaccination rates around the world and new Covid-19 strains” such as the Delta variant and Omicron “could impact the already slow and fragile recovery,” it said in a statement.
The introduction of fresh virus restrictions and lockdowns in several nations in recent weeks shows how “it’s a very unpredictable situation,” UNWTO head Zurab Pololikashvili told AFP.
“It’s a historical crisis in the tourism industry but again tourism has the power to recover quite fast,” he added ahead of the start of the WTO’s annual general assembly in Madrid on Tuesday.
While international tourism has taken a hit from the outbreak of disease in the past, the coronavirus is unprecedented in its geographical spread.
In addition to virus-related travel restrictions, the sector is also grappling with the economic strain caused by the pandemic, the spike in oils prices and the disruption of supply chains, the UNWTO said.
Pololikashvili urged nations to harmonise their virus protocols and restrictions because tourists “are confused and they don’t know how to travel”.
International tourist arrivals “rebounded” during the summer season in the Northern Hemisphere thanks to increased travel confidence, rapid vaccination and the easing of entry restrictions in many nations, the UNWTO said.