Industries in Depth

COVID-19: These countries are most at risk from falling tourism

American tourist boat Maid Of The Mist, limited to 50% occupancy under New York state's rules amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), glides past a Canadian vessel limited under Ontario's rules to just six passengers, in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada July 21, 2020. REUTERS/Carlos Osorio     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RC2VXH9IQYVF

This Canadian tourist boat at Niagara Falls was limited to just six passengers. Image: REUTERS/Carlos Osorio

Felix Richter
Data Journalist, Statista
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  • Global travel restrictions, put in place to curtail the coronavirus pandemic, have had a devastating effect on the tourism industry.
  • Data from the World Travel & Tourism Council, shows which countries stand the most to lose from a downturn in tourism.
  • Mexico is perhaps the most vulnerable, with 15.5% of its GDP relying on the travel and tourism industry. Spain and Italy are also highly vulnerable, owing 14.3% and 13.0% of its GDP to tourism respectively.
  • In the U.S., despite just 8.6% of GDP, the U.S., travel and tourism still jeopardizes 16.8 million jobs.

Italy and Spain have been among the countries hit earliest and hardest by the coronavirus pandemic. With more than 34,000 and 28,000 confirmed deaths at the time of this writing, both Italy and Spain have experienced the deadly force of the novel coronavirus, which killed more than 600,000 people globally and brought public life to a standstill across the globe.

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As if the deadly impact of COVID-19 weren't enough, Italy and Spain are also among the countries most vulnerable to the economic fallout of the pandemic. Both countries rely heavily on travel and tourism, which has come to a screeching halt in the past months and remains very limited to this day despite gradual reopenings. Moreover, both countries have struggled economically even before the outbreak, with high levels of public debt and unemployment rates among the highest of all OECD countries.

travel tourism countries chart mexico italy spain china australia uk united states us america japan india canada russia south korea
Who's most vulnerable to COVID-19's impact on tourism? Image: Statista

As the following chart, based on data from the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), shows, travel and tourism contributed 14.3 and 13.0 percent, respectively, to Spain’s and Italy’s GDP last year, including direct contributions from hotels, travel agents, airlines, restaurants and others as well as ripple effects from the billions of dollars, or euros for that matter, that tourists bring to their shores. In the United States for example, the total impact of travel and tourism was considerably smaller at 8.6 percent of GDP. Even at that lower rate, travel and tourism directly support more than 6 million jobs in the United States, with the total contribution to employment amounting to 16.8 million jobs in the U.S. according to WTTC.

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