Business Travel

Impact assessment of the COVID-19 outbreak on international tourism

Taking into consideration the introduction of travel restrictions across the world due to the coronavirus threat the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) presents its updated assessment of the likely impact of the COVID-19 on international tourism.

The United Nations specialized agency for tourism expects that international tourist arrivals will be down by 20% – 30% in 2020 when compared with 2019 figures.

It’ s crucial to mention that in 2009, on the back of the global economic crisis, international tourist arrivals declined by 4%, while the SARS outbreak led to a decline of just 0.4% in 2003. Nowadays, an expected fall of 20% or 30% could lead to a decline in international tourism receipts (exports) of between US$ 300-450 billion, almost one-third of the US$ 1.5 trillion generated in 2019. Taking into account past market trends, this would mean that between five and seven years’ worth of growth will be lost to COVID-19. So, international tourism could drop back to levels of 2012- 2014.

Furthermore, according to IATA data, the change in revenue air passenger-kilometers between the years 2020 and 2019 will fall by 32% in Africa while the estimated impact on air passenger revenue within a year (2020 vs 2019) will fall by 4 billion US dollars. In the Asia Pacific, the change in revenue air passenger-kilometers between the years 2020 and 2019 will fall by 37% while the estimated impact on air passenger revenue within a year (2020 vs 2019) will fall by 88 billion US dollars.

In Europe, the percentage change in revenue air passenger-kilometers between the years 2020 and 2019 will fall by 46% while the estimated impact on air passenger revenue within a year (2020 vs 2019) will fall by 76 billion US dollars. Equally important are the losses in the Middle East and North America. In the Middle East, the percentage change in revenue air passenger-kilometers between the years 2020 and 2019 will fall by 39% while the estimated impact on air passenger revenue within a year (2020 vs 2029) will fall by 19 billion US dollars. In North America, the percentage change in revenue air passenger-kilometers between the years 2020 and 2019 will fall by 27% while the estimated impact on air passenger revenue within a year (2020 vs 2019) will fall by 50 billion US dollars. The total losses in the industry within a year (2020 vs 2019) are estimated at about 252 billion US dollars.

The World Tourism Organization presents the importance of international tourism in countries with more than 5.000 COVID-19 reported cases to 24th March 2020. For example, in China, the share of world tourist arrivals is 4%, while the share of world tourism receipts is 3% and the share of world tourism expenditure is 19%. In Italy, the share of world tourist arrivals is 4%, while the share of world tourism receipts is 3% and the share of world tourism expenditure is 2%. Also, in the United States, the share of world tourist arrivals is 5%, while the share of world tourism receipts is 15% and the share of world tourism expenditure is 10%. Germany has also a high share of world tourism expenditure (7%), while the share of world tourism arrivals is 3%. The United Kingdom has a 5% share of world tourism expenditure while the share of world tourism arrivals is 3%.

International tourism has seen continued expansion, despite occasional shocks, demonstrating the sector’s strength and resilience and benefiting all world regions. Yet this crisis is like no other and requires strong and coordinated action, according to the UNWTO.

Data from the International Labor Organization prove that tourism can accelerate job creation. After the global economic crisis, employment in all sectors grew by 11% between 2010 and 2018 while employment in accommodation and food services grew 35%.

The World Tourism Organization points out that we don’t know when we will see the end of this crisis. So far, we know we need strong support in navigating the unparalleled social and economic impact of COVID19. In the immediate, we need urgent fiscal and monetary measures that help protect jobs, sustain the self-employed and support companies’ liquidity and operations and accelerate recovery in the future. Tourism is a major job creator, especially for more vulnerable groups – women and youth. It is also a sector with proven capacity to bounce back and multiply recovery to other sectors.

Maria Gourtsilidou
Maria Gourtsilidou is Senior Editor of Research and Data Analytics at the CEOWORLD magazine. She is responsible for driving thought leadership, using data analytics to showcase the company’s products and services, and fostering knowledge sharing between CEOWORLD magazine and client organizations. She studied Public Administration (Economics Of The Public Sector) in Greece and holds a Bachelor’s in Public Administration from the Panteion University of Political & Social Studies. Follow Maria Gourtsilidou on Twitter. Write at maria-gourtsilidou@ceoworld.biz.