Few industries have been hit harder by the COVID-19 pandemic than the tourism industry. International tourist arrivals fell 74% in 2020 compared with 2019, according to the World Tourism Organization. That’s equal to a decline of about 1.1 billion international arrivals, a level not seen since the late 1980s and early 1990s.
“Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, the global tourism sector had seen almost uninterrupted growth for decades,” Felix Richter wrote for Statista, a data provider based in Germany. “Since 1980, the number of international arrivals skyrocketed from 277 million to nearly 1.5 billion in 2019. As our chart shows, the two largest crises of the past decades, the SARS epidemic of 2003 and the global financial crisis of 2009, were minor bumps in the road compared to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The World Tourism Organization estimates that international tourist arrivals won’t return to pre-pandemic levels for two-and-a-half to four years.