COVID-19 takes its toll on tourism
Harare (New Ziana) – The global tourism industry is expected to suffer estimated losses of up to $50 billion due to the outbreak of the deadly COVID-19 worldwide, the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has said.
COVID-19 first broke out in China’s Wuhan Province last December, and has since rapidly spread to other countries, infecting over 900 000 people and killing over 3 000 others, mainly in China.
The UNWTO said the tourism sector was one of the hardest-hit by the outbreak, impacting both travel supply and demand, particularly in China, the world’s leading outbound market, and other popular Asian and European destinations such as Italy.
In 2003, China represented three percent of total spending on international tourism, today it accounts for 20 percent.
The UNWTO said travel restrictions and flight cancellations or flight frequency reductions had significantly diminished the supply of travel services, while demand continued to slow down.
As a result, airlines around the world are forecast to lose up to US$100 billion this year due to the disease, according to latest estimates by global industry bodies.
“COVID-19 has become a new downside risk in a context of an already weaker world economy. Furthermore, the COVID-19 outbreak comes on top of a rather uncertain scenario of continued geopolitical, social and trade tensions, post-Brexit effects, and an uneven performance among major outbound travel markets,” the UNWTO said.
“(In light of that) the UNWTO estimates international tourist arrivals could decline by one percent to three percent in 2020 globally, down from a three percent to four percent growth estimated in early January. This would translate into an estimated loss of 30 to 50 billion USD in international visitor spending in destinations (international tourism receipts).”
The UNWTO said, at the moment, Asia and the Pacific were the most affected regions with an expected decrease of nine to 12 percent in international tourist arrivals in 2020, down from five percent to six percent forecasted growth in early January.
“These estimates should be interpreted with caution due to the volatile evolution of the outbreak which could lead to further revisions of the forecast. Estimates for other world regions are currently premature in view of the rapidly evolving situation,” it said.
“The impact of the COVID-19 outbreak will undoubtedly be felt across the whole tourism value chain. Small and medium enterprises are expected to be particularly affected. This calls for support and recovery measures for the tourism sector in the most affected countries.”