A United Nations (UN) panel predicts travel restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic will prevent international tourism rebounding until the third quarter of 2021.
Some experts from the UN World Travel Organization don’t think the rebound will actually happen until 2022.
The panel, in a statement on Tuesday, said travel restrictions and border closures were the main obstacle, along with slow containment of the virus and low traveller confidence.
The lack of a coordinated international response to the pandemic are the biggest factors weighing on traveller confidence, the panel said. Even if flights are available, people just don’t yet feel safe travelling internationally.
According to Johns Hopkins University, Covid-19 infections are still increasing globally. The US leads in confirmed cases, at 8.7 million, but India and Brazil aren’t far behind, at 7.9 million and 5.4 million, respectively.
Russia, France, Spain and Argentina each have recorded more than one million cases, and the UK is near one million. The pandemic has killed more than 1.1 million people worldwide, including more than 226,000 in the US.
The UN panel forecasts a 70% overall drop in international travel this year. During July and August, usually the two busiest months of the year for international travel, arrivals declined 81% and 79%, respectively.
That cost the sector US$730 billion in losses, eight times more than it endured from the Great Recession more than a decade ago, the panel said.
“This unprecedented decline is having dramatic social and economic consequences, and puts millions of jobs and businesses at risk,” said UN World Travel Organization secretary-general Zurab Pololikashvili.
“This underlines the urgent need to safely restart tourism, in a timely and coordinated manner.”
Arrivals in the Asia-Pacific region, hit first by the virus, fell 79% in the first eight months of 2020, the panel said. They fell 69% in Africa and the Middle East, 68% in Europe and 65% in the Americas.
International arrivals to the US fell 71% in the first eight months of 2020, according to the panel’s tourism recovery tracker. China fared worse, with an 88% drop.