Zimbabwe: Unwto Projects Rebound in Tourism

Senior Business Reporter

THE United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has projected a rebound in tourism activity in the second half of the year despite the decline in international arrivals by 87 percent in January this year compared to 2020, on the back of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The deadly disease was first detected in China in December 2019 and has spread across the globe, posing adverse health and economic implications. In a latest statement, UNWTO has called for stronger co-ordination to restart tourism in all regions across the globe.

“The devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on global tourism has carried on into 2021, with new data showing an 87 percent fall in international tourist arrivals in January as compared to 2020,” it said.

“The outlook for the rest of the year remains cautious as the UNWTO continues to call for stronger coordination on travel protocols between countries to ensure the safe restart of tourism and avoid another year of massive losses for the sector,” it said.

Following a difficult end to 2020, global tourism suffered further setbacks in the beginning of the year as countries tightened travel restrictions in response to new virus outbreaks.

According to a latest edition of the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, all world regions continued to experience large drops in tourist arrivals in the first month of the year.

“Mandatory testing, quarantines, and in some cases the complete closure of borders, have all hindered the resumption of international travel.

“In addition, the speed and distribution of the vaccination roll-out have been slower than expected, further delaying the restart of tourism,” said UNWTO.

The world tourism body noted that the international community needs to take strong and urgent action to ensure a brighter 2021. For instance, Asia and the Pacific region, which continue to have the highest level of travel restrictions in place, recorded the largest decrease of 96 percent in international arrivals in January.

Europe and Africa both saw a decline of 85 percent in arrivals, while the Middle East recorded a drop of 84 percent. International arrivals in the Americas decreased by 77 percent in January, following somewhat better results in the last quarter of the year.

UNWTO secretary-general Mr Zurab Pololikashvili said: “2020 was the worst year on record for tourism. The international community needs to take strong and urgent action to ensure a brighter 2021.”

“Improved coordination between countries and harmonised travel and health protocols are essential to restore confidence in tourism and allow international travel to resume safely ahead of the peak summer season in the northern hemisphere.”

On the outlook, the global tourism said with 32 percent of all global destinations completely closed to international tourists at the beginning of February, UNWTO anticipates a challenging first few months of 2021 for global tourism.

Based on current trends, UNWTO expects international tourist arrivals to remain subdued.

This would represent a loss of some 260 million international arrivals when compared to pre-pandemic levels.

“Looking ahead, UNWTO has outlined two scenarios for 2021, which consider a possible rebound in international travel in the second half of the year.

“These are based on a number of factors, most notably a major lifting of travel restrictions, the success of vaccination programmes or the introduction of harmonised protocols such as the Digital Green Certificate planned by the European Commission,” said UNWTO.

It said the first scenario points to a rebound in July, which would result in a 66 percent increase in international arrivals for the year 2021 compared to the historic lows of 2020.

“In this case, arrivals would still be 55 percent below the levels recorded in 2019.

“The second scenario considers a potential rebound in September, leading to a 22 percent increase in arrivals compared to last year. Still, this would be 67 percent below the levels of 2019,” said UNWTO.