International tourism won't come back until late 2021, UN panel predicts

Curtis Tate, USA TODAY
·2 min read

A United Nations panel predicts a rebound in international tourism won't occur before the third quarter of 2021, citing travel restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic.

And some experts from the U.N. World Travel Organization don't think the rebound will occur until 2022. The panel, in a statement Tuesday, said travel restrictions and border closures were the main obstacle, along with slow containment of the coronavirus and low traveler confidence.

Weak economic conditions and the lack of a coordinated response to the pandemic are additional factors weighing on international travel, the panel said.

According to Johns Hopkins University data, coronavirus cases have increased worldwide. The United States leads in confirmed cases, at 8.7 million, but India and Brazil aren't far behind, at 7.9 million and 5.4 million, respectively.

Russia, France, Spain and Argentina have each recorded more than 1 million cases, and the United Kingdom is near 1 million. The pandemic has killed more than 1.1 million people worldwide, including more than 226,000 in the United States.

Though public health officials have said a vaccine could be approved by year's end, it may take several months for enough doses to be manufactured and distributed to the population, the top U.S. infectious disease expert, Anthony Fauci, has said in interviews.

The U.N. panel forecasts a cumulative decline in international travel this year of 70%. During July and August, usually the two busiest months of the year for international travel, arrivals declined 81% and 79%, respectively.

That cost the sector $730 billion in losses, eight times more than it endured from the Great Recession more than a decade ago, the panel said.

"This unprecedented decline is having dramatic social and economic consequences, and puts millions of jobs and businesses at risk,” said U.N. World Travel Organization Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili. “This underlines the urgent need to safely restart tourism, in a timely and coordinated manner.”

Arrivals in the Asia-Pacific region, hit first by the virus, fell 79% in the first eight months of 2020, the panel said. They fell 69% in Africa and the Middle East, 68% in Europe, and 65% in the Americas.

International arrivals to the United States fell 71% in the first eight months of 2020, according to the panel's tourism recovery tracker. China fared worse, with an 88% drop.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: International tourism won't rebound until late 2021, UN panel says