Coronavirus cost global tourism US$320 billion in Jan-May: UN

International tourist arrivals fell by 300 million during the period.
International tourist arrivals fell by 300 million during the period.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

MADRID (AFP) - The coronavirus crisis cost the global tourism sector US$320 billion (S$441.2 billion) in lost revenue during the first five months of 2020, threatening the livelihoods of millions of people, the UN said Tuesday (July 28).

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.

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, it added.

"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, Mr Zurab Pololikashvili, said.

While tourism is slowly returning in some destinations, the UN body warned 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 United States and China, both major sources of international tourists, are still "at standstill" it added.

The UN body forecast in May that international tourist arrivals could plunge by 60 to 80 per cent in 2020 owing to the coronavirus.

International tourism arrivals rose by four per cent in 2019 to 1.5 billion, with France the world's most visited country, followed by Spain and the United States.

The last time international tourist arrivals posted an annual decline was in 2009, when the global economic crisis led to a 4 per cent drop.