The massive drop in revenues from tourism, which accounted for 7% of global trade last year, could reduce global GDP by as much as 2.8% in 2020, the UN secretary-general said Tuesday.

Citing the latest data from the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Antonio Guterres said that as many as 100 million direct tourism jobs are at risk.

“It is imperative that we rebuild the tourism sector in a ‘safe, equitable and climate-friendly’ manner and so ensure tourism regains its position as a provider of decent jobs, stable incomes and the protection of our cultural and natural heritage,” Guterres said.

Tourism has been among the hardest hit of all sectors by COVID-19 with restrictions on travel and a sudden drop in consumer demand leading to an unprecedented fall in international tourists’ numbers.

An essential pillar of the Sustainable Development Goals, tourism was the third-largest export category — after fuels and chemicals — in 2019, according to the UNWTO.

Tourism is one of the world’s most important economic sectors, providing livelihoods to hundreds of millions people, boosting economies and enabling countries to thrive, he stressed.

Last year, tourism generated 7% of global trade and employed one in every ten people globally.

The UNWTO data expected export revenues from tourism to fall by $910 billion to $1.2 trillion in 2020.

With 90% of World Heritages Sites having closed as a result of the pandemic, both tangible and intangible heritage is at risk in all parts of the world, the brief warned.

International tourist arrivals decreased by 56% and $320 billion in exports from tourism were lost in the first five months of 2020 – more than three times the loss during the Global Economic Crisis of 2009, according to the UN tourism body.

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