The number of international tourists could fall by 60 to 80% in 2020, depending on when international borders start reopening, the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) announced on Thursday.
Those numbers differ significantly from a previous UNWTO prediction in March that tourism would decline by 20 to 30%.
“This is by far the worst crisis that international tourism has faced since records began” in 1950, the UNWTO said.
International tourist arrivals had already fallen by 22% in the first quarter of the year, and by 57% in March, as many countries went into lockdown, according to the UNWTO.
With this drop, the sector has lost $80 billion (€74 billion) over the first three months of the year. In total, financial losses for the year could range from $910 billion (€843 billion) to $1,200 billion (€1,111 billion).
“The impact will be felt to varying degrees in the different global regions and at overlapping times, with Asia and the Pacific expected to rebound first,” the organization said.
The new predictions are based on three possible scenarios: reopening of borders and lifting of travel restrictions in early July (58% drop), early September (-70%) and early December (-78%).
Due to the decline in travel, “100 to 120 million direct tourism jobs” are at risk, according to the UNWTO.
“The majority expects to see signs of recovery by the final quarter of 2020 but mostly in 2021,” the organisation said, expecting a swifter recovery in domestic demand than that of international demand.
“Based on previous crises, leisure travel is expected to recover quicker, particularly travel for visiting friends and relatives, than business travel,” they added.
The most positive outlook is for Africa and the Middle East, “with most experts foreseeing recovery still in 2020,” while the Americas are the most pessimistic and are the “least likely to believe in recovery in 2020.”
For Europe and Asia, “the outlook is mixed, with half of the experts expecting to see recovery within this year.”