The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) reported on Thursday that international tourist arrivals fell by 72 percent during the first ten months of 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the UNWTO, travel restrictions, low consumer confidence and the global fight to contain the spread of the COVID-19 mean 2020 has been the worst year on record for the number of international travelers.
The first 10 months saw global destinations receive 900 million fewer international tourists than in the same period in 2019. This represents a loss of 935 billion U.S. dollars for the sector -- 10 times more than in the 2009 economic crisis.
UNWTO Secretary General Zurab Pololikashvili said that although the news of a vaccine has increased tourist confidence, there is still a long road to recovery.
"We must redouble our efforts to open borders safely while supporting tourism jobs and businesses," said Pololikashvili.
The UNWTO predicted that by the end of the year, world tourist numbers will have dropped to the levels of around 30 years ago, resulting in losses of around 1.1 trillion dollars for the sector.
"A coordinated approach to easing and lifting travel restrictions is essential, provided it is safe to do so," said Pololikashvili, while explaining the importance of having clear and consistent rules across countries.
The UN agency expected that tourism will start to recover in the second half of 2021, but that it could take between two and a half to four years for the numbers to return to the level of 2019.