Tourism industry continues to suffer virus impact

By / China Daily / Updated: 2021-04-02,12:40

A tourist guide gives a virtual tour at the Colosseum, one day before the country goes back to lockdown as part of the efforts put in place to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Rome, Italy on Jan 4, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

The devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on global tourism has carried on into 2021, with new data showing an 87 percent fall in international tourist arrivals in January, as compared to 2020.

According to the World Tourism Organization, known as UNWTO, all regions continued to experience large drops in tourist arrivals in the first month of the year as mandatory testing, quarantines, and, in some cases, the complete closure of borders, all hindered the resumption of international travel. The slower-than-expected vaccination rollout has further delayed the restart of tourism.

Asia and the Pacific, the region which continues to have the highest level of restrictions in place, recorded the largest decrease in international arrivals in January, 96 percent. Europe and Africa both saw a decline of 85 percent in arrivals, while the Middle East suffered a drop of 84 percent. International arrivals in the Americas decreased by 79 percent in January, following somewhat better results in the last quarter of the year.

Zurab Pololikashvili, UNWTO secretary-general said: "2020 was the worst year on record for tourism. The international community needs to take strong and urgent action to ensure a brighter 2021.

"Many millions of livelihoods and businesses are depending on it. Improved coordination between countries and harmonized travel and health protocols are essential to restore confidence in tourism and allow international travel to resume safely ahead of the peak summer season in the northern hemisphere," he added.

With 32 percent of all global destinations completely closed to international tourists at the beginning of February, a challenging first few months of 2021 for global tourism is expected.

Based on current trends, the UNWTO expects international tourist arrivals in the first quarter of 2021 to be down about 85 percent compared to the same period in 2019. This would represent a loss of some 260 million international arrivals, when compared to pre-pandemic levels.

Looking ahead, the UNWTO has outlined two scenarios for 2021, considering a possible rebound in international travel in the second half of the year. These are based on a number of factors, most notably a major lifting of travel restrictions, the success of vaccination programs or the introduction of harmonized protocols such as the Digital Green Certificate planned by the European Commission.

The first scenario points to a rebound in July, which would result in a 65 percent increase in international arrivals for the year 2021 compared to the historic lows of 2020. In this case, arrivals would still be 55 percent below the levels recorded in 2019.

The second scenario could see a potential rebound in September, leading to a 30 percent increase in arrivals compared to last year. Still, this would be 67 percent below the levels of 2019.

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