ISLAMABAD: International tourist arrivals will be down by 20-30 per cent in 2020 when compared with 2019 figures, the World Tourism Organisation (WTO) of the United Nations said on Tuesday.

In an updated assessment of the likely impact of the Covid-19 on international tourism, the UN agency for tourism said that the expected fall of this percentage could translate into a decline in international tourism receipts of between $300-450 billion, almost one third of the $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.

Putting this into context, UNWTO notes that in 2019, on the back of the global economic crisis, international tourist arrivals declined by 4pc, while the SARS outbreak led to a decline of just 0.4pc in 2003.

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said: “Tourism is among the hardest hit of all economic sectors. However, tourism is also united in helping to address this immense health emergency — our first and utmost priority — while working together to mitigate the impact of the crisis, particularly on employment, and to support the wider recovery efforts through providing jobs and driving economic welfare worldwide.”

Pololikashvili noted that while it is too early to make a full assessment of the likely impact of Covid-19 on tourism, it is clear that millions of jobs within the sector are at risk of being lost. Around 80pc of all tourism businesses are small-and-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and the sector has been leading the way in providing employment and other opportunities for wo­men, youth and rural communities.

Alongside this new assessment, UNWTO underlines tourism’s historic resilience and capacity to create jobs after crisis situations, while also emphasising the importance of international cooperation and of ensuring the sector is made a central part of recovery efforts.

Tourism is currently one of the most affected sectors and UNWTO has revised its 2020 forecast for international arrivals and receipts, though emphasises that such any predictions are likely to be further revised.

Published in Dawn, April 1st, 2020