Covid-19 cost tourism sector $320 billion in first five months of 2020, the UN says

Covid-19 fears cost the global tourism sector $320 billion in just the first five months of the year, the UN's world tourism body said Tuesday. Hopes that tourists would help revamp the French economy are also fading – it may be high season, but most of the capital's tourist sites are deserted. 

A sunbather wears a mask on the Indonesian island of Bali on July 27, 2020.
A sunbather wears a mask on the Indonesian island of Bali on July 27, 2020. © Firdia Lisnawati, AP

The coronavirus crisis cost the global tourism sector $320 billion in lost revenue during the first five months of 2020, threatening the livelihoods of millions of people, the UN said on Tuesday.

The amount of revenue lost between January and May this year is "more than three times the loss during the Global Financial Crisis of 2009", the Madrid-based World Tourism Organization said in a statement.

International tourist arrivals fell by 300 million – or 56 percent – in that period as lockdown restrictions to control the spread of Covid-19 went into effect.

"This latest data makes clear the importance of restarting tourism as soon as it is safe to do so. The dramatic fall in international tourism places many millions of livelihoods at risk," said the UN tourism body's secretary general, Zurab Pololikashvili.

While tourism is slowly returning in some destinations, the World Tourism Organization warned the sector still faces serious risks such as a resurgence of the virus that could trigger new lockdowns, additional travel restrictions and border closures.

The United States and China, both major sources of international tourists, are "at standstill", the organization added.

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The UN body forecast in May that international tourist arrivals could plunge by 60 to 80 percent in 2020 owing to the coronavirus.

International tourism arrivals rose by four percent in 2019 to 1.5 billion, with France the world's most-visited country followed by Spain and the United States. While European visitors have partly made up for the loss of visitors from the Americas and Asia, most of France's hospitality businesses and cultural sites are still taking a hit, with visits to the Louvre museum down 60 percent. 

The last time international tourism posted an annual global decline was in 2009 when the economic crisis led to a 4 percent drop.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)


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