The pandemic could cost the global tourism industry as much as $1tn in 2021 after countries around the world imposed travel restrictions and lockdowns to combat the spread of the virus.
The UN World Tourism Organization said on Monday that revenues from international tourism could reach $700-800bn for 2021, higher than last year’s $400bn, but less than half of the $1.7tn recorded in 2019.
While travel picked up over the summer months in Europe, international tourist arrivals remained 64 per cent below 2019 levels, the UNWTO added.
In some regions, including southern and Mediterranean Europe, the Caribbean and North and Central America, arrivals were higher than they were in 2020.
UNWTO secretary-general Zurab Pololikashvili said the results for the third quarter of 2021 were “encouraging” but noted that travel remained well below pre-pandemic levels and that any recovery had been geographically “uneven”.
On Friday, countries around the world reimposed travel restrictions that they had largely discarded after Omicron, a new variant of Covid-19 which some scientists believe may be more transmissible than previous strains, was found in southern Africa. The news knocked shares in travel companies and airlines.
“We cannot let our guard down and need to continue our efforts to ensure equal access to vaccinations, co-ordinate travel procedures, make use of digital vaccination certificates to facilitate mobility and continue to support the sector,” Pololikashvili added in light of the emergence of new variants and rising cases in Europe.