A new policy brief from the United Nations outlining Covid-19’s impact on the tourism industry projects the pandemic will cost the tourism industry approximately $1 trillion in losses and threaten more than 100 million jobs worldwide, underlining how the ongoing global crisis has devastated one of the world’s largest industries.
International tourist numbers are projected to decline by between 58% and 78% from 2019 to 2020, the UN reports, which would result in a drop of 850 million to 1.1 billion tourists.
The expected loss in export revenues from international tourism is $910 billion to $1.2 trillion; $320 billion has already been lost in the first months of 2020, which is more than three times the loss experienced during the entire 2009 economic crisis.
Approximately one in 10 people worldwide work in the tourism sector, and the impact of the pandemic has put 100 million to 120 million jobs at risk.
The losses in the tourism industry are projected to reduce global GDP by between 1.5% and 2.8%, depending on how long the tourism standstill lasts.
The tourism slowdown is expected to have the most detrimental impact on the world’s least developed countries—particularly in Africa—and small island developing states, where tourism accounts for a higher percentage of their GDP, as well as on the women and young people who make up the highest share of tourism workers.
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UN Secretary-General António Guterres emphasized the need to rebuild the tourism industry in a way that is “safe, equitable and climate friendly,” and the UN identified five priorities: mitigating the virus’s socio-economic impact, building “resilience” across the tourism value chain, maximizing the use of technology, promoting sustainability and fostering partnerships that will help tourism support goals for sustainable development.
Tourism “allows people to experience some of the world’s cultural and natural riches and brings people closer to each other, highlighting our common humanity. Indeed, one might say that tourism is itself one of the wonders of the world,” Guterres said Tuesday. “That is why it has been so painful to see how tourism has been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
1.5 billion. That’s the number of international tourist arrivals in 2019, in addition to 8.8 domestic tourists worldwide. Prior to the pandemic, the UN notes that the tourism industry had grown faster than the world economy overall for 10 years straight.
The tourism industry has faced some of the most visible struggles during the Covid-19 pandemic: cruises have become vectors of Covid-19 transmission, airlines have laid off workers and theme parks like Walt Disney World have faced huge losses and become flashpoints for criticism as they’ve reopened amid the pandemic. Polling throughout the pandemic has shown Americans and others worldwide have been hesitant to travel, with a Morning Consult tracking poll released Monday finding only 27% of all U.S. adults would currently feel comfortable going on a vacation and 12% would feel comfortable traveling abroad.
I am a New York-based journalist covering breaking news at Forbes. I previously covered politics and news for Vanity Fair and Mic, and as a theater critic I serve as a member of the New York Outer Critics Circle. Follow me on Twitter @alisond64 or get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.