Air Travel Won’t Return To 2019 Levels Until 2024 & World Tourism Down 98% In May

Both IATA, the airline lobby based in Montreal, and World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), specialized UN agency, released studies and projections of the travel trends in light of the on-going Covid-19 pandemic.


The air travel is now expected to return to December 2019 levels in 2024 due, and the impact of Covid-19 on the tourism sector has been three times as severe as the 2009 financial meltdown.

Here are some eye-opening slides from the IATA presentation:

And the full report:

Download (PDF, 176KB)

UNWTO reports its findings:

The enormous toll of COVID-19 on international tourism has now become clear, with World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) data showing the cost up to May was already three times that of the 2009 Global Economic Crisis. As the situation continues to evolve, the United Nations specialized agency has provided the first comprehensive insight into the impact of the pandemic, both in tourist numbers and lost revenues, ahead of the upcoming release of up-to-date information on travel restrictions worldwide.

The latest edition of the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer shows that the near-complete lockdown imposed in response to the pandemic led to a 98 per cent fall in international tourist numbers in May when compared to 2019. The Barometer also shows a 56% year-on-year drop in tourist arrivals between January and May. This translates into a fall of 300 million tourists and US$320 billion lost in international tourism receipts – more than three times the loss during the Global Economic Crisis of 2009.

Dramatic fall in tourism places millions of livelihoods at risk

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said: “This latest data makes clear the importance of restarting tourism as soon as it is safe to do so. The dramatic fall in international tourism places many millions of livelihoods at risk, including in developing countries. Governments in every world region have a dual responsibility: to prioritize public health while also protecting jobs and businesses. They also need to maintain the spirit of cooperation and solidarity that has defined our response to this shared challenge and refrain from making unilateral decisions that may undermine the trust and confidence we have been working so hard to build.”


The air travel and tourism won’t start rebounding until the Covid-19 is under control, and unnecessary barriers to global travel have been removed. These entry and transit bans are in place until there is an effective vaccine or good therapies to treat the sickest patients infected with the virus.

IATA affiliated airlines haven’t done themselves any favors by not refunding passengers whose flights have been canceled. The body itself lobbied governments to let the airlines unlawfully keep the money that didn’t belong to them while demanding for taxpayer-funded bailouts.

Why would anybody buy airline tickets now for flights that may not operate to destinations that may not let you in?

Countries have tried to promote local travel by launching various rebate programs like what is going on here in Japan. This likely works well with developed countries whose economies are not heavily dependent on the number of incoming tourists.