GENEVA — The crash in international tourism due to the Covid-19 pandemic can cause a loss of more than $4 trillion to the global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for 2020 and 2021, as per a United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) report published on June 30.

The estimated loss has been caused by the pandemic’s direct impact on tourism and its ripple effect on other sectors closely linked to it.

The report, jointly presented with the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), says international tourism and its linked sectors suffered an estimated loss of 2.4 trillion dollars in 2020 due to direct and indirect impacts of a steep drop in international tourist arrivals.

A similar loss may occur this year, the report warns, noting that the tourism sector’s recovery will largely depend on the uptake of Covid-19 vaccines globally.

“The world needs a global vaccination effort that will protect workers, mitigate adverse social effects and make strategic decisions regarding tourism, taking potential structural changes into account,” said Isabelle Durant, UNCTAD Acting Secretary-General.

“Tourism is a lifeline for millions, and advancing vaccination to protect communities and support tourism’s safe restart is critical to the recovery of jobs and generation of much-needed resources,” said Zurab Pololikashvili, UNWTO Secretary-General. 

“Especially in developing countries, many of which are highly dependent on international tourism.”

With Covid-19 vaccinations being more pronounced in some countries than others, tourism losses are reduced in most developed countries but worsened in developing countries.

Covid-19 vaccination rates are uneven across countries, ranging from below one percent of the population in some countries to above 60 percent in others.

As per the report, the asymmetric roll-out of vaccines magnifies the economic blow tourism has suffered in developing countries, as they could account for up to 60 percent of the global GDP losses.

The tourism sector is expected to recover faster in countries with high vaccination rates like France, Germany, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

But experts do not expect a return to pre-Covid-19 international tourist arrival levels until 2023 or later.

The main barriers are travel restrictions, slow containment of the virus, low traveler confidence, and a poor economic environment.

A rebound in international tourism is expected in the second half of this year. However, the UNCTAD report still shows a loss of between 1.7 trillion dollars and 2.4 trillion dollars in 2021, compared with 2019 levels.

Reduction in tourism causes a 5.5 percent rise in unemployment of unskilled labor on average, with a high variance of zero percent to 15 percent, depending on the importance of tourism for the economy.

Labor accounts for around 30 percent of tourist services’ expenditure in both developed and developing economies. Entry barriers in the sector which employs many women and young employees are relatively low.

As per UNWTO, international tourist arrivals declined by about 1 billion or 74 percent between January and December 2020. In the first quarter of 2021, the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer points to a decline of 84 percent.

Developing countries have borne the biggest brunt of the pandemic’s impact on tourism. They suffered the largest reductions in tourist arrivals in 2020, estimated at between 60 percent and 80 percent.

The most affected regions are North-East Asia, South-East Asia, Oceania, North Africa, and South Asia, while the least-affected ones are North America, Western Europe, and the Caribbean. 

The Covid-19 and tourism in South Asia report by the World Bank Group said that Covid-19 had affected nearly 47.7 million travel and tourism jobs across South Asia. 

As the South Asia region moves from crisis to recovery planning, stakeholders will need to implement policies that can improve the tourism industry, the study said. 

(With inputs from ANI)

(Edited by Pallavi Mehra and Abinaya Vijayaraghavan)

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