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Bacolod City, Philippines Saturday, May 23, 2020
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Future of tourism?

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The World Tourism Organization has revised its forecasts sharply, saying the number of international tourist arrivals could plunge by 60 to 80 percent in 2020 due to the coronavirus disease pandemic that has caused widespread travel restrictions and the closure of airports and national borders.

International tourism is in its worst crisis since records began in 1950, the UN body said in a statement as tourist arrivals fell by 22 percent in the first three months of the year, and by 57 percent in March alone. Asia and Europe suffered the biggest declines, according to the Madrid-based organization.

“The world is facing an unprecedented health and economic crisis. Tourism has been hit hard, with millions of jobs at risk in one of the most labour-intensive sectors of the economy,” the body’s secretary general, Zurab Poloikashvili, said.

Airlines have suffered the most since the outbreak began in China in late 2019 with most flights grounded, but hotel groups, cruise ships and tour operators are also reeling.

The UN body had forecast at the beginning of the year that international tourism would grow by 3-4 percent in 2020 but that has been revised at the end of March, predicting a 20-30 percent decline.

Under a best-case scenario where travel restrictions are eased by early July, international tourist arrivals could fall by just 58 percent. However, if those restrictions are kept in place until early December, the fall would be in the order of 78 percent. Under these scenarios, the drop in international travel could lead to a loss of $910 billion to $1.2 trillion in export revenues from tourism, and of 100 to 120 million direct tourism jobs.

With so many livelihoods affected, governments and the private sector should have made preparations to protect the industry and its millions of stakeholders as they go through these unprecedented times. Everyone, from massive airline corporations that are too big to fail, to the street vendor hawking souvenirs, will be affected in the coming months and while there is optimism that recovery is expected, all who have a stake in the tourism industry will be enduring difficult times in the near future.

The next few months will show us just how much our government values the tourism industry that we had been counting on to be a driver of growth and progress before the COVID-19 pandemic shut everything down. Its survival, along with those of everyone who has been depending on it, will be one of the greatest tests of the leadership of not only the Department of Tourism, but the entire government as a whole.*


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