2021, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development

Tourism is one of the sectors most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Indeed, the number of international tourist arrivals declined by 84 per cent between March and December 2020 compared with the previous year, according to data observed by UNWTO. Based on a range of tourist arrivals’ projections, the report quantifies the potential economic effects of the contraction in tourism in 2021.

The indirect effects are significant. Due to linkages with upstream sectors such as agriculture, a drop in tourist sales leads to a 2.5-fold loss in real GDP, on average, in the absence of any stimulus measures.

Based on three scenarios, one optimistic, one pessimistic and one where the asymmetric speed of vaccinations is considered, the economic losses could range between $1.7 trillion and $2.4 trillion in 2021. The results highlight the importance of the vaccine rollout in getting global tourism restarted and other mitigating measures.

This paper has been written by David Vanzetti (University of Western Australia) and Ralf Peters (UNCTAD). The model was developed jointly with Badri Narayanan Gopalakrishnan (Infinite Sum Modeling). This project was funded by UNCTAD. This paper has benefited from the contributions of: Lien Huong Do (Australian National University), Graham Mott and Carlos Razo from UNCTAD, Sandra Carvao, Chief, Market Intelligence and Competitiveness (UNWTO) and Anna L. Peters.

Graphic design and desktop publishing were done by Nadege Hadjemian. The views expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily represent the views of the affiliated institutions.