Tourism lull in 2020 might have cost Turkey’s GDP $93 bln: UN report

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The total loss caused by the crash in international tourism to Turkey’s GDP in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic could be as high as $93 billion, according to a report by the United Nations Conference on Trade Development (UNCTAD) published on Wednesday.

International tourism contributes about 5 percent of Turkey’s GDP, and the country suffered a 69 percent drop in international tourists in 2020.

The country’s fall in tourism demand is estimated at $33 billion, the report states, leading to losses in closely linked sectors such as food, beverage, retail trade, communications and transport, which makes Turkey’s total decline in output $93 billion, about three times the initial shock. 

The decline in tourism alone contributed to a real GDP loss of about 9 percent, according to the report.

Global economy could lose over $4 trillion

The crash in international tourism could cause a loss of more than $4 trillion to global GDP for the years 2020 and 2021, according to the report.

The report says international tourism and its closely linked sectors suffered an estimated loss of $2.4 trillion in 2020 due to direct and indirect impacts of a steep drop in international tourist arrivals.

A similar loss may occur this year, the report warns, noting that the tourism sector’s recovery will largely depend on the uptake of COVID-19 vaccines globally.

“The world needs a global vaccination effort that will protect workers, mitigate adverse social effects and make strategic decisions regarding tourism, taking potential structural changes into account,” UNCTAD Acting Secretary-General Isabelle Durant said.

UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said: “Tourism is a lifeline for millions, and advancing vaccination to protect communities and support tourism’s safe restart is critical to the recovery of jobs and generation of much-needed resources, especially in developing countries, many of which are highly dependent on international tourism.”

In July of last year, UNCTAD estimated that a four to 12-month standstill in international tourism would cost the global economy between $1.2 trillion and $3.3 trillion, including indirect costs.

But the losses are worse than previously expected, as even the worst-case scenario UNCTAD projected last year has turned out to be optimistic, with international travel still low more than 15 months after the pandemic started.

According to UNWTO, international tourist arrivals declined by about 1 billion or 74 percent between January and December 2020. In the first quarter of 2021, the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer points to a decline of 88 percent.

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