Coronavirus costs global tourism $320 billion to May

European tourists walk at the beach at a hotel on the Tunisian island of Djerba on July 18, 2020, a day after the arrival of the first charter flights to the country since the COVID-19 crisis erupted. AFP

The Covid-19 pandemic cost the global tourism sector $320 billion in lost revenue during the first five months the year, threatening the livelihoods of millions of people, the UN said.

The amount of revenue lost between January and May is “more than three times the loss during the Global Financial Crisis of 2009,” the Madrid-based World Tourism Organisation said in a statement.

It said international tourist arrivals fell by 300 million during the period, or 56 per cent, as lockdown restrictions to control the spread of Covid-19 hammered the travel sector.

“This latest data makes clear 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,” the body’s secretary-general, Zurab Pololikashvili, said.

While tourism is slowly returning in some destinations, the UN body warned that the sector faced serious “downside risks” such as a resurgence of the virus that could trigger new lockdowns, travel restrictions and border shutdowns in “most destinations”.

The US and China – major sources of international tourists – are still “at standstill” it said.

International tourism arrivals rose by four per cent last year to 1.5 billion, with France the world’s most visited country, followed by Spain and the US.

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