Global tourism will suffer losses of between $1.7 and $2.4 trillion this year, equivalent to 1.9-2.7 percent of the world GDP, according to a report by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Wednesday.
The UN agency revealed that global tourism lost $2.4 trillion in 2020 due to the pandemic.
The report, jointly prepared with the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), estimates that drop in tourism would signify an average 5.5 percent increase in unskilled labor unemployment globally, which could increase to 15 percent in countries highly dependent on tourism.
The report looks at three possible scenarios: the first, where tourist arrivals in 2021 fall by the same percentage as in 2020 - 74 percent from pre-pandemic levels -, the other more optimistic in which the reduction is 63 percent, and one at varying rates, due to the uneven progress of vaccination between countries.
In the third scenario, tourism is expected to recover partially in Europe and North America but not in the developing regions.
In this case, arrivals are expected to fall by only 37 percent in places with a high percentage of the population vaccinated but continue to plummet by 75 percent in those with lower immunization coverage.
Tourism losses in 2020 and 2021, which could amount to more than $4 trillion as per the forecasts, are likely to far exceed the figures estimated by UNCTAD last year, when it calculated a maximum of $3.3 trillion loss in what was then seen as the worst case scenario with 12 months of the health crisis.
With more than 15 months since the pandemic was declared, and with many countries continuing to apply restrictions on movement and international travel, UNCTAD fears that 2021 will not fare much better than 2020 in terms of the global average.
However, tourism could stage some recovery in the second half of the year in areas such as Europe or the US.
UN agencies have stressed on vaccination as the main factor for tourism to recover, at a time when some nations have already managed to immunize about two-thirds of their population while others have not even covered one percent.
"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, especially in developing countries," UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said.