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2020 Was Worst Year in Tourism History, UN Says

FILE - A tour operator stands under an umbrella with a British and American flag as she waits for customers in the center of Bruges, Belgium, Sept. 2, 2020.

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, global tourism had its worst year ever in 2020, with international arrivals down 74% compared to 2019.

According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the drop meant $1.3 trillion less in revenues, which is 11 times more than the drop caused by the 2009 economic crisis.

The U.N. said the drop in global tourism has put between 100 and 120 million tourism jobs at risk.

The outlook for a rebound is cloudy.

“While much has been made in making safe international travel a possibility, we are aware that the crisis is far from over,” UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said in a statement.

All world regions saw a drop in tourism, with Asia and the Pacific leading with an 84% decrease. The Middle East and Africa saw drops of 75%. Europe declined by 70%, and the Americas saw a dip of 69%.

According to the U.N., 45% of its panel of experts predict a better year in 2021, while 25% say 2021 will be about the same, and 30% saying 2021 will be worse.

“Looking ahead, most experts do not see a return to pre-pandemic levels before 2023,” the U.N. wrote in a news release.