The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTC) has published a report detailing how 2020 and 2021 have been the worst years on record for the tourism industry, with no positive signs heading further in to 2021.
The introduction of the report explains that international arrivals in 2021 are 85% below the levels reached in 2019 despite a small and unpromising uptick in May 2021. This is mainly due to continued lockdowns and restrictions put into place for concerns over the Delta variant of Covid-19.
“The biggest crisis in the history of tourism continues into a second year. Between January and May, international tourist arrivals were 85% below 2019 levels (or a 65% drop on 2020), UNWTO data shows. Despite a small uptick in May, the emergence of COVID-19 variants and the continued imposition of restrictions are weighing on the recovery of international travel. Meanwhile, domestic tourism continues to rebound in many parts of the world,” the report reads.
The report continues to explain the UNWTO’s latest data shows that in the first 5 months of 2021, world destinations recorded 147 million fewer international arrivals compared to the same period in 2020, and 460 million less than the same period in 2019.
There was a 4% gain in international arrivals in May 2021, according to the report. The uptick in arrivals in May turned out to not be a promising sign of a strong recovery, however, as they quickly fell again. The slight uptick in arrivals was due to certain countries relaxing their Covid-19 restrictions, and the sudden downturn was caused by the same countries reinstating their restrictions or making more aggressive restrictions.
The report concludes that international tourism is slowly gaining momentum, but recovery efforts are not up-to-par. In addition to further restrictions in various countries worldwide, there is a very clear and present lack of coordination and cohesive strategies for reintroducing tourism globally, leading to very unclear and volatile rules for the time being.
“International tourism is slowly picking up, though recovery remains very fragile and uneven. Rising concerns over the Delta variant of the virus have led several countries to reimpose restrictive measures. In addition, the volatility and lack of clear information on entry requirements could continue to weigh on the resumption of international travel during the Northern Hemisphere’s summer season,” the report reads.
The UNWTC is in-support of building better vaccination infrastructure and ramping up efforts to vaccinate the world’s population in a bid to help get rid of restrictions and restart international travel. The organization also calls for countries to coordinate with each other and communicate strategies for increasing even the possibility of mobility.
“Accelerating the pace of vaccination worldwide, working on effective coordination and communication on ever changing travel restrictions while advancing digital tools to facilitate mobility will be critical to rebuild trust in travel and restart tourism” says UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili.
The UNWTO is the United Nations agency tasked with promoting responsible, sustainable, and universally accessible tourism worldwide.