UNWTO and Thessaloniki Tourism Organization share insight on future of travel


    The impact of the Covid-19 health crisis on international travel & tourism, and ways of achieving recovery were discussed during a webinar held recently by the Thessaloniki Tourism Organization and the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

    Titled, “Instrumental analysis: A clear vision amid crisis”, the webinar revealed the latest data in tourism arrivals and revenues and offered insight on future trends.

    Referring to the extensive loss that tourism has suffered due to the pandemic, Michel Julian, Department Officer, Tourism Market Intelligence and Competitiveness at UNWTO, said that during the first six months of 2020, international tourism arrivals dropped by 65 percent compared to the same period in 2019.

    In June alone, international tourism arrivals where down 93 percent, due to the travel restrictions and lockdowns imposed in previous months.

    Furthermore, the UNWTO esimates that during January – August, international tourism arrivals dropped by 705 million or 70 percent compared to the corresponding period last year, while the sector suffered losses of 730 billion dollars in revenues from tourism exports.

    Despite the reopening of many destinations in the second half of May and June, the current trends point to a decrease of international tourism arrivals close to 70 percent for the whole year.

    “It could take 2.5 to 4 years for tourism arrivals to return to 2019 levels,” Julian said, adding that recovery depends on the evolution of the pandemic, the travel restrictions in place, and the confidence of travelers.

    According to Julian, “in every adverse situation, there are also opportunities”, which can arise from digitalization, private and public sector partnerships, government support, promotion of domestic and regional tourism, sustainability and rural tourism, and thematic forms of travel.

    To assist its member states in designing a gradual approach to recovery, the UNWTO has launched its Covid-19 Tourism Recovery Technical Assistance Package that includes a comprehensive list of short-, medium- and long-term technical assistance activities, open to all stakeholders within the tourism value chain.

    The organization’s assistance package is structured around three main pillars: economic recovery; marketing & promotion; institutional strengthening and resilience building.

    According to the UNWTO, the package counts 39 ongoing technical assistance projects around the world.

    The webinar also featured Patrick Fritz, Technical Coordinator, Technical Cooperation and Silk Road, UNWTO; Michele Pitta, Administrative Associate, UNWTO; Nikolaos Gkolfinoulos, Silk Road Project Specialist, UNWTO; and Voula Patoulidou, President, Thessaloniki Tourism Organization.