The coronavirus crisis has hampered international travel for the past 10 months and countries all over the world are feeling the effects. Using data from the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) and The World Bank, visa waiver processing firm Official ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorisation) recently revealed the countries with the biggest tourism revenue loss due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“The past year has been extremely difficult for the travel and tourism industry, with the unpredictable circumstances resulting in countries being forced to close their borders to tourists, often with little notice. As a result, the pandemic has had a huge financial impact on tourism globally, affecting all countries around the world, as well as airlines, travel operators and other hospitality providers in the sector,” Jayne Forrester, Director of International Development at Official ESTA, said in a statement.
“As we move into a new phase of the pandemic, with vaccine rollouts now getting underway around the world, we can only hope that we can regain some control over the pandemic and ensure that it is safe enough for us to travel once more in order to prevent further losses to one of the largest industries in the world.”
Here’s a look at how the top 10 countries rank in terms of the total number of tourism dollars lost over the first 10 months of 2020.
1. United States
The United States has reported more COVID-19 cases and deaths than any other country in the world as of January 2021. What’s more, the US has experienced the biggest tourism revenue loss due to the pandemic, missing out on a remarkable $147.245 billion in the first 10 months of 2020. Many states have cracked down on travel in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, but the country as a whole has also implemented bans on travel from key markets, including Europe.
Spain hosted fewer than 20 million foreign visitors in 2020 and saw the largest tourism revenue loss of any European country at $46.707 billion, Official ESTA determined. The country reopened to travellers from other EU and Schengen-area countries this past summer but is still off-limits to many travellers, including Americans.
The world’s most visited country, France typically hosts more than 89 million tourists each year. However, the COVID-19 crisis caused that figure to decline dramatically in 2020, resulting in a total tourism revenue loss of $42.036 billion over the first 10 months of the year. Spain and France aren’t alone, however, as a total of five European countries rank inside the top 10.
Thailand has begun safely and slowly reopening to international travellers and that’s welcome news for the country’s economy as the Asian hotspot has seen a $37.504 billion loss in tourism revenue due to the ongoing pandemic. The figure is the highest among any country in Asia, according to Official ESTA’s latest report.
Germany’s $34.641 billion in total tourism revenue losses from January 2020 to October 2020 is the fifth-most in the world and trails only Spain and France in Europe. The country lifted restrictions on travel from nearby nations back in June but remains closed to many travellers, including those visiting from the US and UK, which will be paramount to the country’s tourism recovery.
St. Mark’s Square in Venice is virtually empty last month. Photo: Getty Images
Italy emerged as a COVID-19 hotspot in the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic and, unsurprisingly, hasn’t been able to put a stop to the dramatic tourism revenue losses in the months since, reporting a total loss of $29.664 billion over the first 10 months of 2020 as the country remains closed to travellers from the US and other key markets.
7. United Kingdom
While the United Kingdom continues to be impacted by a new variant of coronavirus that experts say appears to spread more easily than others, the country’s tourism revenue losses keep piling up, reaching $27.889 billion based on the latest figures taken into consideration by Official ESTA.
Australia narrowly trails the UK in terms of tourism revenue loss, missing out on $27.206 billion over the first 10 months of 2020. The country was praised for its swift response to the pandemic and has remained vigilant as it continues to keep its borders closed to travel.
Japan’s tourism industry has been equally hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced officials to postpone the Summer Olympics in Tokyo to 2021. Japan’s total tourism revenue loss of $26.027 billion over the first 10 months of 2020 ranks as the ninth-most of any country in the world.
10. Hong Kong
Elsewhere in Asia, Hong Kong has also been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on travel, experiencing a revenue loss of $24.069 billion, according to Official ESTA. The Special Administrative Region of China has charted a path to recovery, however, with the Hong Kong Tourism Board recently launching a standardised list of hygiene protocols to help prepare for the resumption of inbound travel.