Pacific hardest hit by tourism crash: World Tourism Organisation

The Asia and Pacific region was the first and worst region affected by the global tourism crisis, according to a World Tourism Organisation report released last week.

The report found the region has the highest level of travel restrictions and recorded the largest decrease in arrivals last year with 300 million less travellers than the year before: an 84 per cent decline in visitor arrivals.

After Asia and the Pacific, Africa and the Middle East have recorded 75 per cent declines. The global average is 74 per cent. 

Oceania alone has recorded a 79 per cent drop in international tourist arrivals compared to 2019. 

The region is also the least optimistic about travel returning to normal soon, according to the W.T.O. survey.

The survey of a panel of experts was asked when they expect a rebound in international tourism in their countries. It found 64 per cent of respondents in the Asia/Pacific region don’t expect a rebound until 2022.

The America’s think the same with 58 per cent, while respondents in Europe and the Middle East largely expect that by the third or fourth quarter of 2021 travel could rebound.

Asked when tourism might reach pre-pandemic levels, the Asia/Pacific respondents largely said 2024 or later (42 per cent). The global average response was 2023 but by a slim margin.

“The overall prospects of a rebound in 2021 seem to have worsened,” the W.T.O. said.

“As and when tourism does restart, the U.N.W.T.O. Panel of Experts foresee growing demand for open-air and nature-based tourism activities, with domestic tourism and ‘slow travel’ experiences gaining increasing interest.”


The global drop in international arrivals of 74 per cent represents 1 billion fewer travellers compared to 2019. In the 2009 global financial crisis, international travel fell just four per cent.

It means US$1.3 trillion in lost revenue globally, and 100 and 120 tourism jobs gone.

Getting back to normal will mean a global effort to coordinate risk reduction, W.T.O. Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said.

“The harmonization, coordination and digitalization of COVID-19 travel-related risk reduction measures, including testing, tracing and vaccination certificates, are essential foundations to promote safe travel and prepare for the recovery of tourism once conditions allow.” 

In a Tourism Recovery Tracker, the W.T.O. has compiled data on the global tourism reaction to and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, as the United Nations specialised agency tasked to lead a global response.

Data released last month by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community shows Samoa’s tourism earnings between January and June in 2020 fell T$169,000  compared to 2019, a drop of nearly 73 per cent. 

Export earnings in the first half of last year did not keep up with 2019 levels to help soften the tourism blow, with a drop of $11,101 between years. And in line with shipping disruptions, import payments went down too, by $100,795.

The Samoa Tourism Authority has been approached for comment. 

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