Old San Juan

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The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a 22 percent fall in international tourist arrivals during the first quarter of 2020, the latest data from the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) shows.

According to the United Nations agency, the crisis could lead to an annual decline of between 60 percent and 80 percent when compared with 2019 numbers.

“The world is facing an unprecedented health and economic crisis. Tourism has been hit hard, with millions of jobs at risk in one of the most labor-intensive sectors of the economy,” said UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili.

Available data reported by destinations point to a 22 percent decline in arrivals in the first three months of the year, according to the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer.

Arrivals in March dropped sharply by 57 percent following the start of a lockdown in many countries, as well as the widespread introduction of travel restrictions and the closure of airports and national borders.

This translates into a loss of 67 million international arrivals and about $80 billion in receipts (exports from tourism).

Experts see recovery in 2021

Domestic demand is expected to recover faster than international demand according to the UNWTO Panel of Experts survey. The majority expects to see signs of recovery by the final quarter of 2020 but mostly in 2021.

Based on previous crises, leisure travel is expected to recover quicker, particularly travel for visiting friends and relatives, than business travel.

This represents opportunities for Puerto Rico, as the island is a U.S. territory and millions of Puerto Ricans live stateside.

Reporter for The Weekly Journal. She is a journalist with more than 20 years of experience. Rosario received both of her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in International Politics from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service.

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