Madrid: Terming the global tourism sector's recovery as "fragile" and "slow", the UN's tourism body on Monday said that the coronavirus pandemic will cost the sector $2.0 trillion in lost revenue in 2021.
The prediction from the Madrid-based World Tourism Organization comes as Europe is grappling with a surge in infections and as a new heavily mutated Covid-19 variant, dubbed Omicron, spreads across the globe.
According to the body, international tourist arrivals will this year remain 70-75 per cent below the 1.5 billion arrivals recorded in 2019 before the pandemic hit, a similar decline as in 2020.
UNWTO in a statement also noted that the global tourism sector already lost $2.0 trillion (1.78 trillion euros) in revenues last year due to the pandemic, making it one of the sectors hit hardest by the health crisis.
While the UN body charged with promoting tourism does not have an estimate for how the sector will perform next year, its medium-term outlook is not encouraging.
The tourism body noted that uneven vaccination rates around the world and new Covid-19 strains" such as the Delta variant and Omicron "could impact the already slow and fragile recovery."
The introduction of fresh virus restrictions and lockdowns in several nations in recent weeks shows how "it's a very unpredictable situation," UNWTO head Zurab Pololikashvili told AFP.
"It's a historical crisis in the tourism industry but again tourism has the power to recover quite fast," he added ahead of the start of the WTO's annual general assembly in Madrid on Tuesday.
The UNWTO said that in addition to virus-related travel restrictions, the sector is also grappling with the economic strain caused by the pandemic, the spike in oils prices and the disruption of supply chains.
Pololikashvili urged nations to harmonise their virus protocols and restrictions because tourists "are confused and they don't know how to travel".
International tourist arrivals "rebounded" during the summer season in the Northern Hemisphere thanks to increased travel confidence, rapid vaccination and the easing of entry restrictions in many nations, the UNWTO said.
"Despite the improvement in the third quarter, the pace of recovery remains uneven across world regions due to varying degrees of mobility restrictions, vaccination rates and traveller confidence," it added.