International tourist arrivals figure for 2020 is predicted to decline by about 20-30% due to the effects of COVID-19 that has literary grounded the majority of tourism business.
COVID-19 has seen most destination in the world imposing travel restrictions especially to none-citizens in a bid to curb the spread of the virus.
However, these restrictions have hit the tourism industry the most as the sector mainly thrive from international travels.
In its assessment of the likely impact of COVID-19 on international tourism, United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) said this year’s numbers will likely be down by 20-30% compared to 2019 figures.
“Taking into account the unparalleled introduction of travel restrictions across the world, the United Nations specialized agency for tourism expects that international tourist arrivals will be down by 20% to 30% in 2020 when compared with 2019 figures.
“However, UNWTO stresses that these numbers are based on the latest developments as the global community faces up to an unprecedented social and economic challenge and should be interpreted with caution in view of the extreme uncertain nature of the current crisis.
“An expected fall of between 20-30% could translate into a decline in international tourism receipts (exports) of between US$300-450 billion, almost one-third of the US$ 1.5 trillion generated in 2019. Taking into account past market trends, this would mean that between five and seven years’ worth of growth will be lost to COVID-19.
“Putting this into context, UNWTO notes that in 2009, on the back of the global economic crisis, international tourist arrivals declined by 4%, while the SARS outbreak led to a decline of just 0.4% in 2003.”
The announcement by UNWTO could spell doom for countries in Southern Africa, especially Zimbabwe that mainly base their tourism sector on international tourists.
Zimbabwe, through the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) left no stone unturned in their bid to lure more international tourist as part of efforts to help generate the much need foreign currency for the country.
China was key in its marketing strategy on the back of indications by the UNWTO that the Asian nation was arguably the biggest contributor of outbound tourists in the wold and that the status was going to remain for a number of years with the possibility of increasing.
To make a solid a statement to the Chinese tourists, ZTA even went as far as opening the previously closed marketing offices in China as well as hosting the Chinese Ready Program for the country’s tourism sector were the industry was taken through the expectations and needs of Chinese people.
However, all those efforts will be hampered by the effects of COVID-19 and the UNWTO secretary-general Zurab Pololikashvili confirmed that the sector has been the hardest hit.
“Tourism is among the hardest hit of all economic sectors. However, tourism is also united in helping to address this immense health emergency – our first and utmost priority – while working together to mitigate the impact of the crisis, particularly on employment, and to support the wider recovery efforts through providing jobs and driving economic welfare worldwide.”
The UNWTO boss added that, while it is too early to make a full assessment of the likely impact of COVID-19 on tourism, it is clear that millions of jobs within the sector are at risk of being lost.
“Around 80% of all tourism businesses are small-and-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and the sector has been leading the way in providing employment and other opportunities for women, youth and rural communities.
“Alongside this new assessment, UNWTO underlines tourism’s historic resilienceand capacity to create jobs after crisis situations, while also emphasizing the importance of international cooperation and of ensuring the sector is made a central part of recovery efforts,” he said.
Majority of workers in the tourism sector in Zimbabwe are currently on forced leave except those who work in reservations who are only going to work to respond to emails of people who are either cancelling or rescheduling.