Covid-19’s Effect on Tourism – a Long Road to Recovery

Posted on 28 June 2021

As Covid-19 infections soar internationally, tourism experts fear it will be a long road to recovery. Many are looking to 2024 or later before a return to pre-pandemic levels.

A Statista report paints a bleak picture. Following the worst year in tourism history, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), international tourist arrivals were down 83% in the first quarter of 2021 compared to the same period in 2020. Travel restrictions largely remained in place through the first months of 2021, as potentially more dangerous variants of the novel coronavirus appear.

With vaccinations underway and case numbers receding in many countries, a sense of optimism is gradually returning. According to a recent UNWTO survey, travel experts remain cautious in their outlook, however, with the vast majority not expecting a return to pre-pandemic levels before 2023.

Global impact on tourism

Statistics show Covid-19’s impact on international tourism amounted to a 72% reduction from January through October 2020 compared to the same period in 2019. With many countries still battling high case numbers, and South Africa going through a third wave, a revival of the tourism sector will take years. Millions of people fear for their livelihood, especially in regions heavily dependent on the influx of international tourists.

The South African situation

South Africa saw a decrease of over 71% of international tourists between 2019 and 2020, according to Statistics South Africa from over 15, 8million in 2019 to less than 5 million in 2020. The effect on the southern Africa region is over 73% reduction in international tourism. Currently, under adjusted alert Level 3, domestic, regional and international travel into and within South Africa is allowed, in line with safety protocols and regulations. Some international visitors are trickling in, but not in numbers that have made a marked impact on tourism.

Before the pandemic more than 4.5% of South Africa’s workforce were employed in tourism.


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