AFRICA – The economic impact from the plunge in tourism since the pandemic emerged last year could top US$4 trillion, a UN report has said.

The joint report by the UN’s World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) found that the lack of widespread vaccination in developing countries was leading to mounting economic losses.

Tourism is a lifeline for millions, and advancing vaccination to protect communities and support tourism’s safe restart is critical to the recovery of jobs and generation of much-needed resources,” UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said in a statement.

He noted that many developing countries are highly dependent on international tourism.

The outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic brought international air travel to a near halt for much of last year as many countries refused to allow non-essential travel.

That punched a $2.4 trillion hole in the tourism and related sectors last year, and the report warns a similar loss may occur this year depending on the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.

With COVID-19 vaccination rates wildly uneven, the economic damage will be concentrated in those countries with low vaccination rates, Africa being top of the list.

Although the tourism sector is expected to recover faster in countries with high vaccination rates, like the United States, the UNWTO says international tourism is unlikely to return to pre-pandemic levels until 2023 at the earliest.

The 63-75% drop in international tourism this year from 2019 levels forecast by UNCTAD is expected to cause between €1.7 and €2.4 trillion in lost economic activity.

Egypt, which suspended all international flights on March 19, 2020, as a precautionary measure against the COVID-19 has made arrangements to resume them on July 1, 2020, in a bid to revive the declining tourism.

The country, has today had two more airports airports receive health accreditation from the Airports Council International (ACI), raising the number of Egyptian airports recognized as safe to 11.

The certificate recognizes each airport’s “commitment to prioritizing health and safety measures” in accordance with the recommendations and guidelines of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the ACI, the ministry said in a statement.

Thus, Egypt becomes one of the first countries in Africa and the Middle East in terms of the number of airports obtaining this certificate, the statement reported.