Global tourism lost £245bn in five months due to coronavirus, says UN chief

Tourism for some countries represents more than 20 per cent of their GDP

Tuesday 25 August 2020 10:11 BST
Comments
Portuguese foreign minister says 'quarantine is the enemy of tourism'
Leer en Español

The global tourism industry has been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic, with $320bn (£244.5bn) lost in exports in the first five months of the year and more than 120 million jobs at risk, the chief of the UN has said.

Secretary-general Antonio Guterres said in a policy briefing and video address on Tuesday that tourism is the third-largest export sector of the global economy, behind fuels and chemicals, and in 2019 it accounted for 7 per cent of global trade.

“It employs one in every 10 people on Earth and provides livelihoods to hundreds of millions more,” he said.

In addition to boosting economies, “it allows people to experience some of the world’s cultural and natural riches and brings people closer to each other, highlighting our common humanity,” he said.

But the UN chief said that in the first five months of 2020, because of the pandemic, international tourist arrivals decreased by more than half and earnings plummeted.

Mr Guterres said this has been a “major shock” for richer developed nations “but for developing countries, it is an emergency, particularly for many small island developing states and African countries”.

Tourism for some of those countries represents more than 20 per cent of their GDP, he explained.

Sandra Carvao, the UN World Tourism Organisation’s chief of market intelligence and competitiveness, said the $320bn (£244.5bn) in lost exports from January through May is three times what was lost during the year 2009 at the height of the last global financial crisis.

And according to the policy briefing, “export revenues from tourism could fall by $910bn (£695.3bn) to $1.2tn (£916.9bn) in 2020” and that “could reduce global GDP by 1.5 per cent to 2.8 per cent”.

Sky gliders are shown empty above the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk during the coronavirus outbreak in Santa Cruz, California
Sky gliders are shown empty above the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk during the coronavirus outbreak in Santa Cruz, California (AP)

In addition to tourism jobs that are at risk, the policy paper said jobs in associated sectors, including food service, that provide employment for 144 million workers worldwide are also at risk.

It stressed that small businesses “are particularly vulnerable”.

Mr Guterres said tourism “is also a key pillar for the conservation of natural and cultural heritage”.

According to the briefing, some 7 per cent of world tourism relates to wildlife, “a segment growing by 3 per cent annually”.

UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres attends a session during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland
UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres attends a session during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland (AP)

“The fall in revenues has led to increased poaching and habitat destruction in and around protected areas,” the secretary-general said, “and the closure of many World Heritage sites has deprived communities of vital livelihoods.”

Mr Guterres called for the tourism sector to be rebuilt in a way that is safe for host communities, workers and travellers, and is also “equitable and climate friendly”.

Noting that travel restrictions and border closures still remain though some have been lifted, Ms Carvao said “the recovery will be very much dependent on the evolution of the pandemic and the economic situation”.

“No country has escaped the impact of Covid on tourism,” she said.

AP

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in