UN report underpins tourism role to revive pandemic-hit economy

January 19, 2022 - 18:53

TEHRAN – A recent UN report has turned the spotlight on the potential role of tourism to recover the global economy which has suffered under lengthy lockdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The unexpected halt in international tourism caused by the pandemic has emphasized the sector’s significance to both national economies and individual livelihoods.

Drawing on data from the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the World Economic Situation and Prospects (WESP) has defined the importance of tourism for the world economy and particularly for developing economies, including Small Island Developing States (SIDS), the UN body reported.

“After a global contraction of 3.4% in 2020 and a rebound of 5.5% in 2021, the world economy is projected to grow by 4% in 2022 and then 3.5% in 2023. Given its importance as a major export category (before the pandemic tourism was the third-largest in the world, after fuels and chemicals), and recognizing its role as a source of employment and economic development, the sector’s recovery is expected to drive growth in every world region.”

 “The sudden halt in international tourism caused by the pandemic has emphasized the sector’s importance to both national economies and individual livelihoods. The flagship UN report makes use of UNWTO data and analysis to assess the cost of declining tourism and illustrates just how important restarting tourism will be in 2022 and beyond,” according to UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili.

The latest edition of the UN World Economic Situation and Prospects report uses key UNWTO data on international tourist arrivals and tourism receipts to illustrate how the pandemic’s impact has been felt beyond the sector itself.

International tourist arrivals plunged by 73% in 2020, dropping to levels not seen for 30 years. And while tourism did record a modest improvement in the third quarter of 2021, international arrivals between January-September 2021 were still 20% below 2020 levels and 76% below 2019 levels (the full year 2021 results to be released by UNWTO on 18 January).

The crisis has had a devastating impact on employment, including in hospitality, travel services, and retail trade. It has disproportionately affected vulnerable groups, including youth and migrant workers, as well as workers with lower educational attainment and skills.

Additional investigation on the sector’s role in economic recovery, the UN report notes that many destinations, in particular tourism-dependent countries, will need to diversify their tourism throughout 2022 and beyond.

Furthermore, UNWTO analysis shows how many destinations are developing domestic and rural tourism to help local economies in rural and depressed areas to boost job creation and protect natural resources and cultural heritage, while at the same time empowering women, youth, and indigenous peoples.

Iran tourism, for instance, was growing before the pandemic as its revenues reached $11.7 billion in 2019, which accounted for 2.8% of GDP, nearing the average share of tourism in the world GDP, which was 3.2 percent, according to official data compiled by the Ministry of Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts.

Some experts believe the global tourism arrivals are not expected to return to their pre-pandemic levels until 2024, considering, consecutive variants of the virus, which continues to spread around the world.  


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