Updated April 1 2020

  • The outbreak of Coronavirus COVID-19 presents the tourism sector with a major and evolving challenge.
  • The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has strengthened its collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO). The two UN agencies met in Geneva to further advance a coordinated response to COVID-19.
  • UNWTO calls for solid international leadership and for tourism to be included as a priority in future recovery efforts.

UNWTO also calls upon the sector and travelers to address this challenge with sound judgment and proportionate measures.

Tourism is currently one of the most affected sectors and UNWTO has revised its 2020 forecast for international arrivals and receipts, though emphasizes that such any predictions are likely to be further revised.

Against a backdrop of travel restrictions being introduced, UNWTO underscores the importance of international dialogue and cooperation and emphasizes the COVID-19 challenge also represents an opportunity to show how solidarity can go beyond borders.

The tourism sector, like no other economic activity with social impact, is based on interaction amongst people. UNWTO has been guiding the tourism sector’s response on several levels:

  • By cooperating closely with the World Health Organization (WHO), the lead UN agency for the management of this outbreak;
  • by ensuring with WHO that health measures are implemented in ways that minimize unnecessary impact on international travel and trade;
  • by standing in solidarity with affected countries; and
  • by emphasizing tourism’s proven resilience and by standing ready to support recovery.

UNWTO continues to coordinate closely with WHO and other United Nations agencies, and UNWTO’s Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili maintains regular contact with governments and tourism sector leaders.

The tourism sector is committed to putting people and their wellbeing first.

As the United Nations agency leading tourism’s contribution to sustainable development, UNWTO issued a joint statement with WHO, the lead UN agency for the global response to COVID-19.

Both organizations call for responsibility and heightened coordination to ensure that health measures are implemented in ways that minimize unnecessary interference with international travel. Furthermore, tourism’s response needs to be measured and consistent, proportionate to the public health threat and based on local risk assessment.

Personal responsibility is the most important step that people can take to protect themselves and others. Travelers should familiarize themselves with the basic prevention practices that apply while travelling and in daily life (WHO advice for public). These include:

  • regular hand-washing,
  • normal cough etiquette,
  • postponing travel plans in cases of illness, and
  • avoiding contact with people suffering from acute respiratory infections.

It is essential to stay informed as the situation evolves, especially while travelling. Travelers should check regularly with WHO and other reliable resources for the latest updates and information issued by health and travel professionals.

Travelers are responsible not only for their own well-being but for the well-being of those around them. They should be aware of the symptoms and take all the recommended steps for personal hygiene.

Stay safe and travel responsibly by following these simple but effective guidelines.

The tourism sector is currently one of the hardest-hit by the outbreak of COVID-19, with impacts on both travel supply and demand. This represents an added downside risk in the context of a weaker world economy, geopolitical, social and trade tensions, as well as uneven performance among major outbound travel markets.

Considering the evolving nature of the situation, it is too early to estimate the full impact of the COVID-19 on international tourism. For its initial assessment, UNWTO takes the SARS scenario of 2003 as a benchmark, factoring in the size and dynamics of global travel and current disruptions, the geographic spread of COVID-19 and its potential economic impact:

  • As of today, UNWTO estimates that in 2020 global international tourist arrivals could decline between 30-40%, down from an estimated growth of 3% to 4% forecast in early January 2020.
  • This could translate into a loss of US$ 30 to 50 billion in spending by international visitors (international tourism receipts).
  • Estimates for other world regions are currently premature in view of the rapidly evolving situation.

UNWTO underscores that any estimate must be treated with caution due to the volatile and uncertain evolution of the outbreak which might lead to further revisions.

UNWTO is observing the introduction of restrictions on travel. Where these are introduced, they must be based on the latest expert recommendations and have public health concerns as a main concern.

Within this context, UNWTO has stressed the importance of international dialogue and cooperation. This shared challenge also presents the global community, including the tourism sector, to work more closely together and show that solidarity can go beyond national borders.

Small and medium sized enterprises (which make up around 80% of the tourism sector) are expected to be particularly impacted. This might affect millions of livelihoods across the world, including vulnerable communities who rely on tourism as a vehicle to spur their development and economic inclusion.

Due to its cross-cutting economic nature and deep social footprint, tourism is uniquely positioned to help societies and communities affected return to growth and stability. Over the years, the sector has consistently proven its resilience and its ability not only to bounce back as a sector but to lead the wider economic and social recovery. This depends on adequate political support and recognition.

Against this backdrop, UNWTO calls for:

  • financial and political support for recovery measures targeting the tourism sector in the most affected countries;
  • recovery measures and incentives to be planned and implemented in coordination with international development and donor organizations; and
  • tourism support to be included in the wider recovery plans and actions of affected economies.

As in the past, UNWTO will provide guidance and support for recovery measures of its members, the private and public tourism sector, including organizers of tourism events and fairs.

Through its website and social media channels (Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook).

The following links provide an overview of guidelines and other similar documents related to the COVID-19:

The Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a new virus that causes respiratory illness in humans and can spread from person-to-person. COVID-19 is a new strain of coronavirus that has not been previously identified in humans.

World Health Organization Guidelines and recommendations

Other relevant recommendations



Mitigation and Recovery

The Recommendations are the first output of the Global Tourism Crisis Committee, established by UNWTO with high-level representatives from across the tourism sector and from within the wider United Nations system.

UNWTO Launches a Call for Action for Tourism’s COVID-19 Mitigation and Recovery  
International Tourism Arrivals

Tourism Arrivals Could Fall by 20-30%

Taking into account the unparalleled introduction of travel restrictions across the world, the United Nations specialized agency for tourism expects that international tourist arrivals will be down by 20% to 30% in 2020 when compared with 2019 figures.

International Tourism Arrivals Could Fall by 20-30% in 2020  
Further cooperation in COVID-19 response

Further cooperation in COVID-19 response

The Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Zurab Pololikashvili led a high- delegation to the World Health Organization (WHO) headquarters in Geneva to further advance the two agencies’ coordinated response to the worldwide Coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak.

UNWTO and WHO Agree to Further Cooperation in COVID-19 Response  
Calls on tourism to be part of recovery plans

Calls on tourism to be part of recovery plans

In an update on the sector’s response to the coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak, the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) offers a first assessment pointing to a decrease in international arrivals and receipts in 2020. Public health measures need to be implemented in ways that minimize any unnecessary disruption to travel and trade.

COVID-19: UNWTO Calls on Tourism to be Part of Recovery Plans  


Recommendations for Action

Recommendations for Action

This document was prepared by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) with the contribution of the Members of the Tourism Crisis Committee comprised of UNWTO, representatives of its Members States, the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the International Maritime Organization (IMO), and the private sector - the UNWTO Affiliate Members, Airports Council International (ACI), Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), International Air Transport Association (IATA) and World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC).



The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the world to a standstill. Tourism has been the hardest hit of all economic sectors, and in many places the most vulnerable members of society will suffer the most.
However, tourism has shown an unparalleled ability to recover from crisis. Furthermore, the sector is uniquely positioned to lead wider societal recovery, driving economic growth, creating jobs and transforming lives.


Healing Solutions for Tourism Challenge

Healing Solutions for Tourism Challenge

This challenge is a global call to reach the most disruptive startups, entrepreneurs and drive solutions to mitigate Covid-19 impacts on tourism through health, economic and destination management solutions.

UNWTO Convenes Global Tourism Crisis Committee

Global Tourism Crisis Committee

The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) hosted a high-level virtual meeting yesterday, bringing together key UN agencies, the chairs of its Executive Council and Regional Commissions, and private sector leaders.

Impact assessment of the COVID-19 response

Impact assessment of the COVID-19 response

Updated 05 March 2020: International tourism has seen continued expansion, despite occasional shocks, demonstrating the sector’s strength and resilience and benefiting all regions in the world.

UNWTO: Health advice for tourists

UNWTO: Health advice for tourists

As the COVID-19 situation evolves, many people around the world continue to travel: for leisure, for business and for vital humanitarian reasons.
Anyone travelling has a duty of care to themselves and to others.



Secretary-General Madrid

Message from Madrid

We remain united in facing an unprecedented challenge. The COVID-19 virus does not discriminate.
It knows no borders and, as we have seen over recent days, nobody is immune.
We are all, therefore, grateful to all those who cannot stay safe at home right now

Secretary-General COVID-19 Statement

Secretary-General COVID-19 Statement

As the COVID-19 situation evolves, the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) observes that full or partial travel restrictions have been – and continue to be – introduced across the world. These decisions are made with public health as the primary concern.

Zurab Pololikashvili Secretary-General  
A joint statement on tourism and COVID-19

A joint statement on tourism and COVID-19

As the current outbreak of the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) continues to develop, the World Health Organization and the World Tourism Organization are committed to working together in guiding the travel and tourism sectors’ response to COVID-19.

UNWTO and WHO Call for Responsibility and Coordination  
The containment of coronavirus COVID-19

The containment of coronavirus COVID-19

Tourism’s continued growth and unique transformative potential is dependent upon stability and international solidarity. The sector must, therefore, always put people and their wellbeing first.

Statement on the Containment of Coronavirus COVID-19  
Statement on the COVID-19 outbreak

Statement on the COVID-19 outbreak

Tourism’s continued growth and unique transformative potential is dependent upon stability and international solidarity. The sector must, therefore, always put people and their wellbeing first.


Related Links