The coronavirus pandemic had a devastating effect on international tourism in 2020, causing a 74 percent drop in international arrivals, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) annual report published on Thursday.
The 2020 world Tourism Barometer showed that there were around one billion fewer international arrivals worldwide in 2020 compared to 2019 as s result of widespread travel restrictions put into place by nearly every country on Earth to try and control the pandemic.
The UNWTO estimates that the fall in arrivals will lead to a loss of 1.3 trillion U.S. dollars in revenue -- 11 times the losses caused by the 2009 economic crisis, which it described as "the worst year in history" for the sector.
The pandemic has affected all the world's regions, with Asia and the Pacific Region suffering an 84 percent drop in international tourist arrivals. The decline in the Middle East and Africa was 75 percent.
Europe recorded a 70 percent fall in international arrivals despite a slight recovery in the summer, while there was a 69 percent decrease in the Americas.
UNWTO Secretary General Zurab Pololikashvili warned that 2021 would also be a difficult year.
"While much has been made in making safe international travel a possibility, we are aware that the crisis is far from over. The harmonization, coordination and digitalization of COVID-19 travel-related risk reduction measures, including testing, tracing and vaccination certificates, are essential foundations to promote safe travel and prepare for the recovery of tourism once conditions allow," he said.
A UNWTO panel of expert also predicts mixed results for 2021, with around 45 percent of respondents expecting improvement, 25 percent expecting a similar performance and 30 percent foreseeing worsening results. Most respondents said it would take between two and a half and four years for international tourism to return to the level of 2019.