How Bad Was the Coronavirus Pandemic on Tourism in 2020? Look at the Numbers.

on Mar9
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Numbers alone cannot capture the scope of the losses that have mounted in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Data sets are crude tools for plumbing the depth of human suffering, or the immensity of our collective grief.

But numbers can help us comprehend the scale of certain losses — particularly in the travel industry, which in 2020 experienced a staggering collapse.

Around the world, international arrivals are estimated to have dropped to 381 million in 2020, down from 1.461 billion in 2019 — a 74 percent decline. In countries whose economies are heavily reliant on tourism, the precipitous drop in visitors was, and remains, devastating.

According to recent figures from the United Nations World Tourism Organization, the decline in international travel in 2020 resulted in an estimated loss of $1.3 trillion in global export revenues. As the agency notes, this figure is more than 11 times the loss that occurred in 2009 as a result of the global economic crisis.

The following charts — which address changes in international arrivals, emissions, air travel, the cruise industry and car travel — offer a broad overview of the effects of the coronavirus pandemic within the travel industry and beyond.

The pandemic upended commercial aviation. One way to visualize the effect of lockdowns on air travel is to consider the number of passengers screened on a daily basis at Transportation Security Administration checkpoints.

Traveler screenings plunged in March before hitting a low point on April 14, when 87,534 passengers were screened — a 96 percent decline as compared with the same date in 2019.

Numbers have risen relatively steadily since then, though today the screening figures still sit at less than half of what they were a year earlier.



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