International tourism could be facing a fall of between 60–80% over the course of 2020 due to COVID-19, the United Nations World Tourism Organisation forecasts.

The sector is already down 22% in Q1 2020, the figures reveal, with an estimated 67 million fewer international tourists up to March, translating into $80 billion in lost revenue.

The UNWTO believes data for the whole year could show a decline in tourist numbers of between 60% and 80%, compared to 2019.

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said: “Tourism has been hit hard, with millions of jobs at risk in one of the most labour-intensive sectors of the economy.”

Asia and the Pacific region have been most affected, according to the latest numbers, with arrivals there down 33 million; the effects of the crisis in Europe have also been severe, with arrivals down 22 million compared to the previous year.

Members of the UNWTO Panel of Experts see prospects for a recovery in 2021, however, with domestic demand expanding faster than international demand. Based on experience from previous crises, leisure travel, especially to visit friends and relatives, is expected to recover faster than business travel.

Meanwhile, the reopening of Shanghai’s Disneyland following a four-month shutdown might provide something of a barometer of people’s appetite in China to resume normal life – and potentially to travel and be among crowds. Disney reopened its biggest resort in Asia following an easing of COVID-19-related restrictions by Shanghai’s authorities, who say the virus is under control.

Tickets selling for $56 each were sold out in minutes, reports the SCMP.

Visitor numbers will be capped at one-third of the theme park’s 80,000 capacity, and people will be allowed to enter in batches of 200 to maintain social distancing.

Parades have been put on hold for now, and visitors are not allowed any close interactions with other people, including the taking of selfies with Disney’s various iconic characters.

Shanghai is the first of Disney’s 12 theme parks around the world to reopen, following temporary closures as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Disney shut its parks in Shanghai and Hong Kong in January.

UN World Tourism Organisation, SCMP; additional content by WARC staff