Covid-19 to cost global tourism $2T in 2021: UN

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Europe is grappling with a surge in infections as a new heavily mutated Covid-19 variant, dubbed Omicron, spreads across the globe. AFP

The coronavirus pandemic will cost the global tourism sector $2.0 trillion in lost revenue this year, the UN’s tourism body said on November 29, calling the sector’s recovery “fragile” and “slow”.

The forecast from the Madrid-based World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) comes as Europe is grappling with a surge in infections and as a new heavily mutated Covid-19 variant, dubbed “Omicron”, spreads across the globe.

 

International tourist arrivals will this year remain 70-75 per cent below the 1.5 billion arrivals recorded in 2019 before the pandemic hit, a similar decline as in 2020, according to the body.

The global tourism sector already lost $2.0 trillion in revenues last year due to the pandemic, according to the UNWTO, making it one of sectors hit hardest by the health crisis.

While the UN body charged with promoting tourism does not have an estimate for how the sector will perform next year, its medium-term outlook is not encouraging.

“Despite the recent improvements, uneven vaccination rates around the world and new Covid-19 strains” such as the Delta variant and Omicron “could impact the already slow and fragile recovery”, it said in a statement.

“It’s a historical crisis in the tourism industry but again tourism has the power to recover quite fast,” UNWTO head Zurab Pololikashvili told AFP ahead of the start of the UNWTO’s annual general assembly in Madrid on November 30.

“I really hope that 2022 will be much better than 2021.”