Dec 1, 2021 - Economy & Business

UN report: Pandemic set to cost global tourism $2 trillion in 2021

Woman with suitcase takes selfie in front of Eiffel tower.
A tourist in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris on Nov. 25. Photo:Chesnot/Getty Images

A new United Nations report warns that global tourism will see only modest revenue gains in 2021 after last year's historic losses amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Why it matters: Tourism revenues in 2020 fell by more than half from the previous year — a significant blow to the global economy, according to an analysis by the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

  • Tourism was the sector most affected by the pandemic, per the report, which was published Monday.

By the numbers: The UNWTO estimates 2021 global tourism revenue will amount to $1.9 trillion — a modest bump from 2020's low of $1.6 trillion.

  • Before the pandemic, 2019's global tourism revenue clocked in at $3.5 trillion, or 4% of world GDP.
  • The UN finds the drop in tourism is responsible for 70% of the total drop in world GDp last year.
  • In all, the pandemic will likely cost the global tourism sector $2 trillion in lost revenue in 2021, according to the UNWTO.

What they're saying: UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said in a statement Monday that data for the third quarter of 2021 was "encouraging."

  • But Pololikashvili noted that arrivals were still 76% below pre-pandemic levels "and results across the different global regions remain uneven."

What to watch: Governments are increasingly concerned about the spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, as they seek to reopen economies stalled by nearly two years of pandemic restrictions.

  • Pololikashvili noted that with cases rising and the emergence of new variants, there needed to be continued "efforts to ensure equal access to vaccinations, coordinate travel procedures, make use of digital vaccination certificates to facilitate mobility, and continue to support the sector."

Go deeper: Borders are back

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