The Covid-19 Pandemic Has Cost The Global Tourism Industry $935 Billion

In 2019, global travel and tourism contributed an impressive $8.9 trillion to the world’s GDP – a number so vast it’s hard to truly grasp but as a helping point, it looks like this written in full: $8,900,000,000,000. 

Then Covid-19 reared its head and soon we were engulfed in a global pandemic that has shuttered borders, cancelled holidays and business trips, greatly reduced flight numbers and wreaked havoc on tourism and travel focused businesses of every conceivable kind. The result? In the first 10 months of 2020 alone, it cost the tourism industry $935 billion in revenue worldwide – or if we stick with our long-form representation, $935,000,000,000. 

A sizable chunk then, but which individual countries have been worst affected by the downturn in travel? Well placed to research the answer is visa waiver firm Official ESTA, which has used data from the World Travel and Tourism Council and The World Bank to calculate not only the biggest revenue losses by country but also the highest percentage of GDP lost per country as well. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly considering the fact it has the most reported Covid-19 cases of any country, the USA has suffered the biggest single drop in tourism revenue with an eye-watering loss of $147,245 million over that ten month period from the start of 2020. 

In 2019, travel and tourism contributed more than $1.1 trillion to the USA’s GDP with around 80 million international tourists. Fast forward a year however and both those numbers have plummeted, resulting in a total revenue loss of $147,245 million from January to October. Since March travel bans have prohibited anyone traveling from the UK, Ireland, Brazil, China, Iran or the Schengen Zone to the USA without specific exemptions. 

With five of the ten worst affected countries, Europe has had more than its fair share of troubles thanks to Covid but nowhere more so than Spain, which has seen fewer than 20 million annual visitors (the lowest number in 50 years) in 2020 and a resulting revenue loss of $46,707 million. Coming in close behind is France, the world’s most visited country with an average 89 million plus tourists arriving annually, which has seen Covid-related losses reach $42,036 million.

Switching our attention to focus on the effect Covid-19 has had on GDP rather than overall losses, the results are quite different and paint a truly dire picture for smaller island nations.

In top spot is famed gambling hub Macao, a special administrative region of China, whose government imposed strict visitor restrictions on anyone outside of Hong Kong, Taiwan and mainland China. Its gambling revenue thus fell 79.3% year on year in 2020 causing a percentage GDP loss of 43.1%. 

Caribbean nations have been especially hard hit. Particularly reliant on tourism from the US (typically accounting for more than half of all international visitors), the Caribbean saw more than 31 million tourists in 2019 that made up 50-90% of most countries’ GDP – numbers that dropped significantly with border closures and restrictions in 2020.

The biggest loser is picture postcard Aruba, a tiny island in the South Caribbean Sea that welcomes an estimated one million tourists a year. But 2020 has seen its GDP drop by 38.1%. Third is the Turks and Caicos, which closed its borders to tourists entirely from 23 March until 22 July – a travel ban thought to have cost around $22 million a month and resulting GDP losses of 37.8%.

These numbers undoubtedly make for pretty grim reading. But 2021 is now upon us and although we’re still in the grip of the pandemic, the global vaccine rollouts offer hope that we can soon gain some control of its spread and relax borders once again. And when that time comes, tourism will recover, GDPs will climb and we will travel once more.

(Source: Forbes 14 January 2021)

  • Currency Convertor

  • Translate Page »