A woman wearing a facemask at a check-in kiosk at the airport.

Global tourism experienced a 4% upturn in 2021, compared to 2020. However, international tourist arrivals were still 72% below pre-pandemic levels according to estimates by UNWTO.

Zoritsa Urosevic, UNWTO’s Executive Director

In the three decades leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic, world tourism grew steadily year on year. But in 2020, the industry suffered an unprecedent hit, accounting for a staggering 70% of the fall in global gross domestic product (GDP).

The UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has been constantly assessing the impact of the pandemic, and working hard to help kickstart the industry on behalf of millions around the world who rely on it.

Zoritsa Urosevic, UNWTO’s Executive Director spoke in depth to UN News’s Bessie Du, and highlighted the need to rethink the whole sector, boost rural tourism, and improve safety for travellers.

Audio Credit: Bessie Du, UN News - Chinese

Photo Credit: UNWTO

A house made of stone in a rural community.

The UNWTO has launched the Global Rural Tourism Start-up Competition to identify the best ideas that will help rural communities recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

island lagoon

Given the relatively small size of the populations of the Small Island Developing States, the cost of mass vaccinations will be minimal compared to the potential benefits of restarting tourism, says the UN World Tourism Organization

A sculpture of hands placed on the façade of a building

UNWTO and UNESCO collaborate to guidelines for the responsible restart of cultural tourism to ensure inclusive access to heritage, as countries around the world recover from the pandemic.

tourists in the mountains

The 25 winning startups, selected by a jury made up of leaders from across the tourism sector, offer distinct solutions for advancing the SDGs. The winning startups will now be given expert support and backing to develop further.

passenger with mask at airport

2020 was the worst year in tourism history with 1 billion fewer international arrivals than in the previous year, due to an unprecedented fall in demand and widespread travel restrictions. A meeting of the Global Tourism Crisis Committee focused on the integration of vaccines into a harmonized approach to safe travel and launching a coordinated effort to boost confidence in the sector.

passenger with mask at airport

With countries around the world now rolling out vaccines against the COVID-19 virus, the Global Tourism Crisis Committee, organized by the World Tourism Organization, noted that this opens a critical window in the fight against the pandemic and to promote the safe resumption of international travel. Members highlighted the importance of stepping up coordination, within the framework of the International Health Regulations, of vaccination certificates to ensure the implementation of common, harmonized digital related travel principles, protocols and documents. 

Southeast Asia scene

Based on the current evidence, UNWTO expects international arrivals to decline by 70% to 75% for the whole of 2020. In this case, global tourism will have returned to levels of 30 years ago, with 1 billion fewer arrivals.

A top-down view of a woman on a rustic rowboat serving food.

After partnering back in May for a campaign asking the world to be patient, responsible and “travel tomorrow”, UNWTO and CNN team up again as the restart of tourism gets underway.

rustic room

The initiative of the World Tourism Organization and Sommet Education has received 600 applications. Out of the 30 selected finalists, the three winning projects will be announced in March 2021.

tourism data

The tracker includes data on: international tourist arrivals, seat capacity in international and domestic air routes, air travel bookings, hotel searches and bookings, occupancy rates and demand for short term rentals.

A woman in her scarf staff.

UNWTO celebrates “Tourism and Rural Development” as this year’s World Tourism Day theme, as countries around the world look to tourism, as a leading employer, to drive recovery.

The Pantheon in Rome

According to the latest analysis from the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), 40% of all destinations worldwide have now eased the restrictions they placed on international tourism in response to COVID-19.

Scenic image of a lake surrounded by trees and snow-topped mountains.

The enormous toll of COVID-19 on international tourism has now become clear. The latest edition of the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer shows that the near-complete lockdown imposed in response to the pandemic led to a 98 per cent fall in international tourism in May when compared to 2019. This dramatic fall places many millions of livelihoods at risk, including in developing countries. As the situation continues to evolve, the United Nations specialized agency provides the first comprehensive insight into the impact of the pandemic, both in tourist numbers and lost revenues.