SAHEED EYASIM

Tourism on the international level is still becoming weaker amidst the unprecedented situation arising because of COVID-19. According to the latest information released by the World Tourist Organisation (UNWTO), the adverse impact that started last year is perpetuating in 2021. There was a decrease of 73 % in the International Tourism last year and the new data is showing 87% fall in international tourist arrivals in January as compared to 2020, following a decrease of 85% for the last quarter of 2020.This is a result of people still not being able to travel internationally.

The projection for the remaining months is still uncertain as the UNWTO recommends a tighter coordination of protocols for travel among countries to guarantee the safe restart of tourism to prevent very significant losses for another year on International Tourism.

Tourism globally was already heavily impacted for the end of last year, unfortunately this situation has continued into the beginning of this year. The latest information issued by UNWTO World Tourism Barometer has indicated that all regions worldwide are experiencing big decreases in the number of tourist arrivals for January. International travel has not gone back to normal because of stricter measures that have been further implemented comprising mandatory tests, quarantines and some countries that

closed their borders completely. Furthermore, the vaccination process was expected to go quicker.

Asia and the Pacific, having the highest level of restrictions on travel, has the largest decrease with a 96% drop in International arrivals in January. There has been a setback of 85% for Europe and Africa. The Middle East saw a decrease of 84% and America’s decreased by 77%.

The projection for the first quarter of 2021 according to UNWTO, forecast a decrease of 85% in the arrivals of international tourists over the same period in 2019. This will be the result as 32% of the destinations worldwide are closing their borders completely and 34% are closing partially. When compared to the same period where there was no pandemic, it is equivalent to a loss of 260 million of international arrivals.

Moving forward, the UNWTO has outlined two scenarios with a possible rebound in international travel in the second half of 2021.They have taken into consideration the parameters which include, first and foremost, the lifting of travel restrictions, the efficiency of programmes of vaccinations or the introduction of harmonized protocols as the Digital Green Certificate planned the European Union and a significant improvement in the traveller confidence to travel. The first scenario will be that a rebound happens July, that will provide a 65% increase in international travels for the year 2021 but which will still represent a decrease of 55% decrease compared to 2019.

The second scenario will be based on a rebound, happening in September. This will then represent 30% increase in arrivals compared to last year but still will

result in a 67% decrease compared to 2019.

In this unprecedented situation, the UNWTO calls for stronger coordination to restart Tourism.