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Global tourist arrivals saw a 58 percent jump in the third quarter compared to the same period in 2020, the United Nations tourism body has said, warning that new Covid-19 strains were likely to impact “the already slow and fragile” international tourism recovery.

The UN World Tourism Organization said that after a weak first half of 2021, international tourism rebounded during the summer season in the northern hemisphere, boosting results for the third quarter, especially in Europe.

The UN agency, however, said international tourist arrivals remained 64 percent below the pre-pandemic 2019 levels.

“Despite the improvement in the third quarter of the year, the pace of recovery remains slow and uneven across world regions. This is due to varying degrees of mobility restrictions, vaccination rates and traveler confidence,” the tourism body said.

“Uneven vaccination rates around the world and new Covid-19 strains could impact the already slow and fragile recovery,” said the agency.

The warning comes as the countries across the globe have been on alert, especially Europe, amid a surge in infections amid a new Covid-19 variant, called Omicron, spreading.

The body said the economic strain caused by the pandemic could also weigh on travel demand, aggravated by the recent spike in oil prices and disruption of supply chains.

According to the latest UNWTO data, international tourist arrivals are expected to remain 70 percent to 75 percent below 2019 levels in 2021, a similar decline as in 2020.

Revenues from international tourism could reach $700-800 billion in 2021, a small improvement from 2020 but less than half the $ 1.7 trillion recorded in 2019.

The economic contribution of tourism is estimated at $1.9 trillion in 2021 (measured in tourism direct gross domestic product) well below the pre-pandemic value of $3.5 trillion.

The UN agency said the safe resumption of international tourism would continue to depend largely on a coordinated response among countries in terms of travel restrictions, harmonized safety, and hygiene protocols, and effective communication to help restore consumer confidence.

“This is particularly critical at a moment when cases are surging in some regions and new Covid-19 variants are emerging in different parts of the world.” EFE

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