Airport terminals were largely deserted during coronavirus lockdowns

Madrid (AFP) - The coronavirus crisis cost the global tourism sector $460 billion in lost revenue during the first six months of 2020 as the number of people travelling plunged, the UN said Tuesday.

Revenue lost between January and June amounted to “around five times the loss in international tourism receipts recorded in 2009 amid the global economic and financial crisis,” the Madrid-based World Tourism Organization said in a statement.

International tourist arrivals fell by 440 million during the period, or 65 percent, with Asia, the first region to feel the impact of Covid-19, seeing the steepest decline, it added.

“This represents an unprecedented decrease, as countries around the world closed their borders and introduced travel restrictions in response to the pandemic,” the Tourism Organization said.

While tourism is slowly returning to some destinations, the UN body warned that “reduced travel demand and consumer confidence” would continue to hurt the sector for the rest of the year.

It predicted international tourist arrivals will plunge by around 70 percent in 2020 owing to the coronavirus.

International tourism arrivals rose by four percent 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 four percent drop.

The UN body said it expects it will take two to four years for tourist arrivals to return to 2019 levels.