GLOOMY, indeed, was the year 2020 outlook, of the world tourism records, according to the United Nation World Tourism Organization, UNWTO; as one billion fewer international arrivals was recorded in 2020. Global tourism suffered its worst years on record in 2020, with international arrivals dropping by 74 per cent.

UNWTO, latest data, showed that worldwide, destinations welcomed one billion fewer international arrivals in 2020, than the previous year, due to an unprecedented fall in demand, and widespread travel restrictions, due to Covid-19 pandemic.  This compares with the four per cent decline, recorded during the 2009 global economic crisis.

UNWTO’s latest World Tourism Barometer, showed that the collapse in international travel represents an estimated loss of USD 1.3 trillion in export revenues – more than 11 times the loss recorded during the 2009 global economic crisis. The crisis put between 100 and 120 million direct tourism jobs at risk; and many of them in small and medium-sized enterprises.

The evolving nature of the Covid-19 pandemic, led countries to reintroduce stricter travel restrictions, including mandatory testing, quarantines; and in some cases, closure of borders.  These measures have weighed on tourism resumption of international travels.  Likely, the gradual rollout of Covid-19 vaccine, could restore tourism consumer confidence, and contribute to easing travel restrictions, as well as, normalize travels during the years ahead.


UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili, said: “While much has been made in making safe international travel a possibility, we are aware that the crisis is far from over. The harmonization, coordination and digitalization of COVID-19 travel-related risk reduction measures, including testing, tracing and vaccination certificates, are essential foundations to promote safe travel and prepare for the recovery of tourism once conditions allow.”

UNWTO Panel of Experts latest survey, indicates there could be mixed outlook for 2021.  The survey showed almost half of respondents, 45 per cent, envisaged better prospects for 2021, compared to 2020 record.  And 25 per cent respondents, expect similar performance; while 30 per cent foresee worsening results in 2021.

RECOVERY outlook, according to UNWTO, remains cautious.  Overall rebound prospects in 2021, seem dampened; as 50 per cent respondents, expect a rebound in 2022; compared to 21 per cent in October 2020.  Half of the respondents see a potential rebound in 2021; though below the expectations shown in October 2020 survey of 79 per cent, expected recovery in 2021.

Likely when tourism will restart, UNWTO Panel of Experts, foresee growing demand for open-air and nature-based tourism activities, with domestic tourism and ‘slow travel’ experiences gaining increasing interest. While much is being done in making safe international travel possible, UNWTO, said the crisis is far from over.

LOOKING FURTHER ahead, experts survey, do not see return of tourism to pre-pandemic levels, taking place before 2023. In fact, 43 per cent respondents point to 2023; while 41 per cent expect return to 2019 levels, will commence in 2024, or later. UNWTO’s extended scenarios for 2021-2024, indicate that it could take two-and-a-half to four years for international tourism to return to 2019 levels.


Asia and the Pacific (-84 per cent) – the first region to suffer the impact of the pandemic and the one with the highest level of travel restrictions currently in place – recorded the largest decrease in arrivals in 2020, (300 million fewer). The Middle East and Africa both recorded a 75 per cent decline.

Europe recorded a 70 per cent decrease in arrivals, despite small and short-lived revival in the summer of 2020. The region suffered the largest drop in absolute terms, with over 500 million fewer international tourists in 2020. The Americas saw 69 per cent decrease in international arrivals, following somewhat better results in the last quarter of the year.