International tourism numbers could plunge 80% – UNWTO

Covid-19 takes ‘unprecedented’ toll on the global travel industry.
Passengers on an almost empty British Airways plane en route to London from Milan on March 5. Image: Laurel Chor, Getty Images

With the Covid-19 pandemic resulting in a 22% slide in international tourist numbers for the first quarter of 2020, the crisis could result in a much more dire plunge of 60% to 80% this year.

This is according to the latest World Tourism Barometer report, published on Thursday by the Madrid-based UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO).

The report presents three possible scenarios, but paradoxically notes that these scenarios should not be “interpreted” as forecasts by the organisation.

Read: SA lockdown: tourist attractions, casinos, more hotels close

“Prospects for the year have been downgraded several times since the [Covid-19] outbreak and uncertainty continues to dominate. Current scenarios point to possible declines in [international tourist] arrivals of 58% to 78% for the year,” UNWTO says in a statement on the report.

“These [scenarios] depend on the speed of containment and the duration of travel restrictions and shutdown of borders,” it explains.

The report reveals that the double-digit decrease in first quarter international tourist arrivals is due to a significant decline in March.

“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.”

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“This translates into a loss of 67 million international arrivals and about $80 billion in receipts [exports from tourism],” it adds.

The report shows that the ‘Asia and Pacific’ region took the worst knock in terms of first quarter international tourist arrivals, with a 35% decline. Europe was the second-worst affected with a 19% decline, followed by the Americas, down 15%.

Africa, the second-fastest growing region in terms of international tourism last year, declined by 13%.

“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,” UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said following the release of the report.

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The release of the report follows a statement by the UNWTO last week, noting that the Covid-19 pandemic has seen virtually “all destinations worldwide” introducing restrictions on travel.

“This represents the most severe restriction on international travel in history and no country has so far lifted restrictions introduced in response to the crisis,” it said.

Below are the three possible scenarios for international tourist arrivals in 2020 outlined in the report, based on international borders’ gradual opening and travel restrictions easing by the following dates:

  • Scenario 1: down 58% – early July
  • Scenario 2: down 70% – early September
  • Scenario 3: down 78% – early December.

UNWTO said that 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 $910 billion to $1.2 trillion in export revenues from tourism
  • 100 million to 120 million direct tourism jobs at risk.

Based on tourism industry experts surveyed, the organisation notes that a recovery in global tourism is largely anticipated in 2021.

“Domestic demand is expected to recover faster than international demand. The majority [of those surveyed] expect to see signs of recovery by the final quarter of 2020, but mostly in 2021,” UNWTO says.

“Based on previous crises, leisure travel is expected to recover quicker, particularly travel for visiting friends and relatives, than business travel. Sentiments regarding the recovery of international travel is more positive in Africa and the Middle East with most experts foreseeing recovery in 2020,” it adds.



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I am afraid that this does seen to be the new reality for a while. What are those Clifton Kugels going to do? No Capri in July and St Moritz in December

More seriously what happens to South Africas huge tourist industry-game parks with super high prices as well as the local B and B. International travel is suspended and will be the last industry to return

Any innovations uncle Aaron? Reduced VAT for local travel? 20% Ters for travel industry staff? Any creative ideas or thoughts?

We’re in oil futures territory with tourism now. So maybe “pay people to travel” provided the people can guarantee that when they arrive at said venues they’ll partake in activities and make sure to spend 2x the free value they were given.

The thing is no one wants to endanger their lives. Not many are willing to endanger their lives in a man made beach inland. People want to go back to work but don’t want to send their kids back to school for example.

Exactly, so silly for the many crying to open up.

Customers are not just going to return to business as usually anyway..before they feel safer..

I am not going for any air travel, cozy restaurant or movie in a foreseeable future, nope.

Winter is still ahead!!

When viewed in isolation I guess it seems likely that foreign visitors will avoid international travel (once opened) for quite some time. Personally, if I lived in London, New York, Paris or Rome I would be far more nervous to ride the local underground / metro compared to taking an international flight through a fairly controlled passenger management system and with highly effective air filtration on board most modern aircraft.

Its critical that SA totally dump the time consuming visa regime,we not the only African country that offers Safari’s, we need to be strategic and make ourselves attractive for tourists. Time for those local lodges to relook at their pricing structures, its no use thinking because they come from the US or Europe that because of the currency benefit that they can “afford it”. Just the cost of an airplane ticket to SA from London is +-£700 for the same £700 one can get a plane ticket, a weeks accomodation and meals in Spain which is also only 3hrs away.

Very true….

A three week holiday to Málaga (, Spain, renting a home or apartment works out cheaper than a vacation to the Cape, including airfare

the sky could plunge on your head

The country annually suffers tremendous loss of life, from road accidents, to homicides and murders, rapes and violent thefts

..and the death toll from the Chinese Flu is minuscule

But the resulting self inflicted economic waste land by oversized ANC ego’s immeasurable

When in the 1950’s did countries close down from the measles and polio epidemic …no …did South Africa close down in the height of the HIV infections …no

What’s going to happen to all our AirBnB “entrepreneurs”? Mortgages to pay, rates and taxes to pay, and with their glitzy apartments in Sea Point standing empty for a year or more….

Guess Atlantic Seaboard property prices may continue their downward trajectory. Pre-covid higher end properties were off between 20%-30% on very thin volumes depending on the suburb. Perhaps another 20% off with COVID until it becomes clear what the 2020/2021 summer season looks like.

Longer term damage to the AirBnB rental market in Cape Town might be in the CBD / Convention Centre periphery. Perhaps the thing that will take the longest to recover is the convention business – with everything being planned 1-3 years in advance. Just listen to the Las Vegas mayor talking about how bad things are there! She is begging for everything to be opened up.

The drop has been 99%.

The cape town cbd and foreshore was saved from becoming another slum cbd like other cbd’s all over SA by hotel companies converting buildings in to hotel/ apartment accommodation.

This will be reversed some what in the next year or two.

What is the best way to repurposed the citcc ? Maybe a refugee processing center.

End of comments.





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