The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) now expects the impact of coronavirus to lead to a 3% negative growth in international tourist arrivals in 2020, down from a negative 1%.

Before the coronavirus outbreak, a positive growth of 3-4% in international arrivals was estimated.

Asia and the Pacific is expected to be the worst hit region, with an anticipated fall in arrivals of 9% to 12%.

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In an updated response to the outbreak, it says tourism will play a “key role” in future recovery efforts.

The UNWTO is calling on governments, international organisations and donor agencies to include tourism as a priority in recovery plans and actions.

It points out that the World Health Organization continues to advise against the application of travel or trade restrictions to countries experiencing outbreaks and says public health measures “need to be implemented in ways that minimize any unnecessary disruption to travel and trade”.

The financial loss to tourism worldwide is expected to be between US$30 and US$50 billion, the UNWTO now says.

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Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said: “Small and medium sized enterprises make up around 80% of the tourism sector and are particularly exposed with millions of livelihoods across the world, including within vulnerable communities, relying on tourism.

“Political and financial commitments are key to ensure that tourism can lead wider economic and social recovery, as proven in past disruptions on the back of the highly resilient nature of the sector and its ability to bounce back strongly.

“In recent decades, tourism has come of age, and is now firmly established as an important contributor to sustainable development, economic growth, employment and international understanding. As the UN agency responsible for tourism and sustainable development, UNWTO stands ready to provide guidance and support for recovery measures of its members, the private and public tourism sector, including organizers of tourism events and fairs.”