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International travel faces unprecedented challenges

Source: Annahar
Tala Ramadan
Tala Ramadan
Travelers walk past canceled flights on a schedule board, some due to the coronavirus, at the Haneda International Airport in Tokyo, Wednesday, March 18, 2020. (AP Photo)
Travelers walk past canceled flights on a schedule board, some due to the coronavirus, at the Haneda International Airport in Tokyo, Wednesday, March 18, 2020. (AP Photo)
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BEIRUT: While the world faces unprecedented global health, social and economic emergency with the pandemic, international travel and tourism is among the most affected sectors with airplanes on the ground, hotels closed and travel restrictions put in place in virtually all countries around the world. 

Earlier this year, the UN’s World Tourism Organization published estimates on how big the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on international tourist arrivals could be. 

“Never before in history has international travel been restricted in such an extreme manner,” the report by UNWTO read.

The most positive of the suggested scenarios published in the report, assumed that travel restrictions would be lifted in July. Even under this scenario, which has already turned out to be too optimistic with international travel still severely restricted, the UNWTO expected international tourist arrivals to drop by 58 percent this year compared to 2019.

The newly released data by UNWTO for the first five months of 2020 show that the estimates weren’t far off. 

International tourist arrivals were down 56 percent globally for the five months ending May 2020 compared to the same period of 2019 given that that most travel restrictions only came into effect in mid-March.

With the recent uptick in new infections in the United States and across Europe proving a major setback in efforts to reanimate the ailing tourism sector, millions of people are fearing for their livelihood, especially in regions heavily dependent on the influx of international tourists.

The impact of COVID-19 has been particularly catastrophic for the travel and tourism sector as statistics on international air travel show the industry coming to an abrupt halt.

While some constraints on human mobility remain in place due to the coronavirus outbreak, the once-busy airports with thousands of travelers arriving or departing are now transformed into ghost places with deserted hallways.

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