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Tourism faces minimum USD 1.2 trillion hit from virus: UN

01 July 2020, MVT 20:54
A sunset photographed from the first integrated leisure and entertainment resort 'Crossraods' in Maldives. The island nation, heavily reliant on income from the tourism industry, is estimated to suffer the worst economic contraction in South East Asia. PHOTO: HUSSAIN WAHEED / MIHAARU
01 July 2020, MVT 20:54

The coronavirus crisis could cost global tourism and related sectors from USD 1.2 to USD 3.3 trillion in lost revenue, the United Nations said Wednesday.

Lockdown restrictions to control the spread of COVID-19 have hammered the tourism sector particularly hard, the UN Conference on Trade and Development said in a report.

The world tourism industry is expected to lose at least USD 1.2 trillion in the best-case scenario, UNCTAD calculated.

In a report entitled "COVID-19 and Tourism: Assessing the Economic Consequences", UNCTAD modelled three scenarios that included the sector's supply chain.

The scenarios are moderate, where a third of annual inbound tourism expenditure is removed, equivalent to a four-month standstill; intermediate, removing two-thirds, equivalent to an eight-month halt; and dramatic, where all expenditure is removed, equivalent to a 12-month shutdown.

In the most optimistic scenario, the world's tourism sector could lose at least USD 1.2 trillion, or 1.5 percent of global gross domestic product.

That rose to USD 2.2 trillion or 2.8 percent of global GDP during an eight-month halt.

In the most pessimistic scenario, UNCTAD projected losses of USD 3.3 trillion or 4.2 percent of global GDP.

Jamaica, Thailand hit hard

The report said that unemployment could rise in some countries by more than 20 percentage points and some sectors could almost be wiped out if the standstill lasted an entire year.

Developing countries are among those set to suffer the steepest losses in GDP terms.

In just the moderate scenario, Jamaica would lose 11 percent of its national output; Thailand nine percent, Croatia eight percent, and Portugal six percent.

The Dominican Republic, Kenya and Morocco would all lose five percent.

In some countries, such as small island developing states, tourism accounts for more than half of GDP.

Maldives projected a shortfall of approximately USD 450 million (MVR 6.9 billion) in foreign currency due to the complete shutdown of the country's tourism sector due to COVID-19.

The World Bank estimated that Maldives will be the worst-hit country in the economic regression caused in the South Asian region by the global health crisis, with the collapse of the tourism industry resulting in GDP output contracting by as much as 13 percent.

"These numbers are a clear reminder of something we often seem to forget: the economic importance of the sector and its role as a lifeline for millions of people all around the world," said Pamela Coke-Hamilton, UNCTAD's director of international trade.

"For many countries, like the small island developing states, a collapse in tourism means a collapse in their development prospects. This is not something we can afford."

In absolute terms in the moderate projection, the biggest losses would be felt by the United States (-USD 187 billion), China including Hong Kong (-USD 105 billion), Thailand (-USD 48 billion), France (- USD 47 billion), Germany (-USD 46 billion) and Spain (-USD 44 billion).

Knock-on effects

UNCTAD also warned of heavy knock-on losses for other economic sectors, such as the goods and services used by holidaymakers, including food, beverages and entertainment.

The agency estimates that for every USD 1.0 million lost in international tourism revenue, a country's national income could decline by USD 2.0 million to USD 3.0 million.

"The damage incurred in the tourism sector goes beyond cancelled flights and hotel bookings," the report noted.

In 2019, the tourism sector accounted for around 300 million jobs globally, according to the UN World Tourism Organization. The leading destinations were France, Spain, the United States and China.

Geneva, Switzerland | AFP