Global tourism economy loses $320bn as COVID-19 impact laid bare

Published: 27 August 2020 - 8:15 a.m.
By: Josh Corder
The global tourism industry has recorded loses of up to US$320 billion in the first five months of this year, with more than 120 million industry jobs currently at risk.

That is according to the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres who addressed the magnitude of devastation COVID-19 has had on travel and tourism. In a video earlier this week, Guterres stressed how tourism is the world’s third-largest export sector and last year accounted for seven percent of all global trade.

The industry is beaten out only by fuels and chemicals in terms of exports.

"It employs one in every 10 people on Earth and provides livelihoods to hundreds of millions more,” he said.

In addition to boosting economies, "it allows people to experience some of the world’s cultural and natural riches and brings people closer to each other, highlighting our common humanity,” he said.

Because of the coronavirus shock, international tourist figures this year have halved, with tourism operators seeing earnings plummet. Guterres explained that both richer developments nations and developing nations have felt the impact of COVID-19.

For developing nations, such as island states and African countries, where tourism can account for more than 20 percent of GDP, the UN official said there is currently an emergency in the industry.

Looking ahead to the rest of the year, losses could balloon to between US$910bn to $1.2 trillion, stressed UN members. If this were to happen, global GDP would shrink by 1.5 percent to 2.8 percent.

Guterres said tourism "is also a key pillar for the conservation of natural and cultural heritage.”

"The fall in revenues has led to increased poaching and habitat destruction in and around protected areas,” the secretary-general said, "and the closure of many World Heritage sites has deprived communities of vital livelihoods.”

Sandra Carvao, the UN World Tourism Organization’s chief of market intelligence and competitiveness concluded: "No country has escaped the impact of COVID-19 on tourism”

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