Bengaluru: Tourism industry is among the worst-hit in the current health crisis due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Passenger planes remain grounded around the world and in the first quarter of 2020, COVID-19 has caused a 22% fall in international tourist arrivals.

The current crisis could lead to a revenue loss of US$910 billion to US$1.2 trillion with an annual decline of 60% to 80% in international tourism. This data is according to the United Nations’ specialised agency, UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO).

Photos: Planes grounded at airports around the world

“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a 22% fall in international tourist arrivals during the first quarter of 2020,” the latest data from UNWTO showed.

According to it, the crisis could lead to an annual decline of between 60% and 80% when compared with 2019 figures. This places millions of livelihoods at risk and threatens to roll back progress made in advancing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Also read: Full-body disinfection booth at Hong Kong airport

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said, “The world is facing an unprecedented health and economic crisis. Tourism has been hit hard, with millions of jobs at risk in one of the most labour-intensive sectors of the economy.”

Available data reported by destinations point to a 22% decline in arrivals in the first three months of the year, according to the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer. Arrivals in March dropped sharply by 57% following the start of a lockdown in many countries, as well as the widespread introduction of travel restrictions and the closure of airports and national borders. This translates into a loss of 67 million international arrivals and about US$80 billion in receipts (exports from tourism).

International Tourism 2020 Scenarios

“Prospects for the year have been downgraded several times since the outbreak and uncertainty continues to dominate. Current scenarios point to possible declines in arrivals of 58% to 78% for the year. These depend on the speed of containment and the duration of travel restrictions and shutdown of borders. The following scenarios for 2020 are based on three possible dates for the gradual opening up of international borders,” UNWTO said.

Scenario 1 (-58%) based on the gradual opening of international borders and easing of travel restrictions in early July

Scenario 2 (-70%) based on the gradual opening of international borders and easing of travel restrictions in early September

Scenario 3 (-78%) based on the gradual opening of international borders and easing of travel restrictions only in early December.


Under these scenarios, the impact of the loss of demand in international travel could translate into:

Loss of 850 million to 1.1 billion international tourists

Loss of US$910 billion to US$1.2 trillion in export revenues from tourism

100 to 120 million direct tourism jobs at risk

UNWTO said, “This is by far the worst crisis that international tourism has faced since records began (1950). The impact will be felt to varying degrees in the different global regions and at overlapping times, with Asia and the Pacific expected to rebound first.”


"Domestic demand is expected to recover faster than international demand according to the UNWTO Panel of Experts survey. The majority expects to see signs of recovery by the final quarter of 2020 but mostly in 2021," it added.