Covid-19; Tourism sector to see loss of 120 million jobs- UN  

Thailand's recent decision to waive visa requirements for Indian travellers is expected to trigger a significant surge in tourism to the already popular destination, according to Indian travel associations and service providers.

Stating that Tourism was among the hardest hit of all sectors by COVID-19, the United Nations said that export revenues from tourism could fall by 910 billion dollars to 1.2 trillion dollars in 2020 and the loss of 120 million jobs.

Releasing the thematic brief on the impact the pandemic has had on tourism, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that the restrictions on travel and a sudden drop in consumer demand has led to an unprecedented fall in international tourist numbers.

“It is imperative that we rebuild the tourism sector in a “safe, equitable and climate friendly” manner and so ensure tourism regains its position as a provider of decent jobs, stable incomes and the protection of our cultural and natural heritage,” he said.

The Chief further underscored that tourism was one of the world’s most important economic sectors, providing “livelihoods to hundreds of millions more”, while it “boosts economies and enables countries to thrive”, and at the same time allowing “people to experience some of the world’s cultural and natural riches and brings people closer to each other, highlighting our common humanity”.

Meanwhile, UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said “tourism touches on nearly every part of our societies and is a cornerstone of growth and employment, both in developed and developing economies.”

The Policy Brief notes that women, youth and workers in the informal economy are most at risk from job losses and business closures. At the same time, destinations most reliant on tourism for jobs and economic growth, including SIDS and Least Developed Countries are likely to be hardest hit.


Export revenues from tourism could fall by $910 billion to $1.2 trillion in 2020. This will have a wider impact and could reduce global GDP by 1.5% to 2.8%.


Tourism supports one in 10 jobs and provides livelihoods for many millions more in both developing and developed economies. In some Small Island Developing States (SIDS), tourism has accounted for as much as 80 per cent of exports, while it also represents important shares of national economies in both developed and developing countries.

However, the policy says that about 100 million direct tourism jobs are at risk, in addition to sectors associated with tourism such as labour-intensive accommodation and food services industries that provide employment for 144 million workers worldwide. Small businesses are particularly vulnerable.


The policy says that sudden fall in tourism cuts off funding for biodiversity conservation. And this places jobs at risk and has already led to a rise in poaching, looting and in consumption of bush meat, partly due to the decreased presence of tourists and staff.

The impact on biodiversity and ecosystems is particularly critical in SIDS and LDCs. In many African destinations, wildlife accounts for up to 80% of visits, and in many SIDS, tourism revenues enable marine conservation efforts.

The impact of COVID-19 on tourism places further pressure on heritage conservation as well as on the cultural and social fabric of communities, particularly for indigenous people and ethnic groups.

For instance, many intangible cultural heritage practices such as traditional festivals and gatherings have been halted or postponed, and with the closure of markets for handicrafts, products and other goods, indigenous women’s revenues have been particularly impacted. Ninety per cent of countries have closed World Heritage Sites, with immense socio-economic consequences for communities reliant on tourism. Further, 90 per cent of museums closed and 13 per cent may never reopen.

The policy also stresses that the crisis was an opportunity to rethink tourism, including how it contributes to the SDGs. To this end, the Policy Brief provides Five Priorities for the restart of tourism. These priorities are:

  • Mitigatesocio-economic impacts on livelihoods, particularly women’s employment and economic security.
  • Boostcompetitiveness and build resilience, including through economic diversification and encouragement of MSMEs.
  • Advanceinnovation and digital transformation of tourism
  • Fostersustainability and green growth
  • Enhanced focus on coordination, and responsible leadership



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