2020: the worst year in the history of world tourism

World tourism recorded its worst year in 2020, with a 74% drop in international arrivals, according to the latest data from the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

Destinations around the world received 1 billion fewer international arrivals in 2020 than the previous year, due to an unprecedented slump in demand and widespread travel restrictions.

By comparison, the decline recorded during the 2009 global economic crisis was 4 percent.

According to the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, the collapse of international travel represents an estimated loss of 1.3 trillion dollars in export earnings, a figure that is more than 11 times the losses recorded during the global economic crisis of 2009.

The crisis has put between 100 and 120 million direct tourism jobs at risk, many of them in small and medium-sized companies.


“Much has been done to make international travel safe, but we are aware that the crisis is still far from over,” said UNWTO.

Given the constant evolution of the pandemic, many countries are currently reintroducing stricter travel restrictions.

The measures include mandatory testing, quarantines and, in some cases, the complete closure of borders, all of which make it difficult to resume international travel.

At the same time, the gradual arrival of Covid-19 vaccines can be expected to help restore consumer confidence, ease travel restrictions and slowly normalize travel over the year ahead.

UNWTO Secretary General Zurab Pololikashvili said: “Much has been done to make international travel safe, but we are aware that the crisis is still far from over. The harmonization, coordination and digitization of measures to reduce the risk of the spread of Covid-19 in relation to travel, including tests, tracking and vaccination certificates, are the essential basis for promoting safe travel and prepare for the recovery of tourism as soon as conditions allow it”.


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