The global tourism industry lost about $320 billion in the first five months of 2020.

“Tourism –the third-largest export sector of the global economy– has been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres, with $320 billion lost in exports over the first five months of the year and more than 120 million jobs at risk, the United Nations chief has said. He added that the crisis has been a “major shock” for wealthier developed nations, “but for developing countries, it is an emergency, particularly for many small island developing states and African countries (…) tourism is also a key pillar for the conservation of natural and cultural heritage.” Guterres called for the tourism sector to be rebuilt in a way that is safe for host communities, workers and travellers, and is also “equitable and climate friendly”.

Sandra Carvao, the UN World Tourism Organization’s chief of market intelligence and competitiveness, said the $320bn in lost exports from January through May is three times what was lost during 2009 at the height of the last global financial crisis. “No country has escaped the impact of COVID-19 on tourism,” she said. “The recovery will be very much dependent on the evolution of the pandemic and the economic situation.”

The coronavirus pandemic has killed more 813,000 people worldwide amid more than 23.6 million cases, according to data collected by the Johns Hopkins University. Nearly 15.3 million have so far recovered.