The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has highlighted the enormous cost which the coronavirus pandemic brings to the global tourism sector, both in tourist numbers and revenue.

The new edition of the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer shows that lockdown restrictions led to a 98 percent fall in international tourist numbers in May this year, compared to May 2019.

The Barometer also shows a 56 percent year-on-year reduction in tourist arrivals in the first five months of this year, with a loss of 320 billion U.S. dollars in international tourism receipts, which the UNWTO says is “more than three times the loss during the Global Economic Crisis of 2009.”

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili on Tuesday said in a press communique that the data showed “the importance of restarting tourism as soon as it is safe to do so.”

“The dramatic fall in international tourism places many millions of livelihoods at risk, including in developing countries,” he said, adding that “governments in every world region have a dual responsibility: to prioritize public health while also protecting jobs and businesses.

They also need to maintain the spirit of cooperation and solidarity that has defined our response to this shared challenge and refrain from making unilateral decisions that may undermine the trust and confidence we have been working so hard to build.

“According to the UNWTO, most members of its Panel of Tourism Experts “expect international tourism to recover by the second half of 2021,” while some believe there could be “a rebound in the first part of next year. ”

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