International tourist arrivals plunged 93% globally in June and are down 65% for the first half of the year when compared with 2019, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

The group's latest World Tourism Barometer also shows that that the massive Covid-19-related drop in international travel translates to a loss of $460 billion. That's about five times the drop in international tourism receipts recorded in 2009 amid the global economic and financial crisis.

All told, the group said, international visitors are down by about 440 million this year.

In recent weeks, however, the group said a growing number of destinations have started to open up to international tourists. As of early September, the UNWTO said 53% of destinations had eased travel restrictions. But the group called on governments and the private sector to work together to reopen international travel more broadly.

"The barometer shows the deep impact this pandemic is having on tourism, a sector upon which millions of people depend for their livelihoods," said UNWTO secretary-general Zurab Pololikashvili. "However, safe and responsible international travel is now possible in many parts of the world, and it is imperative that governments work closely with the private sector to get global tourism moving again. Coordinated action is key."

According to the report, Asia's tourism sector has been hardest hit, with a 72% fall in tourists for the first six months of the year. Europe was the second-hardest hit of all regions, with a 66% decline in tourist arrivals in the first half. Africa and the Middle East saw 57% drops, while the Americas was down 55%.

For the full year, UNWTO is now projecting international tourist arrivals will be down 70%. And the group estimates it will take two to four years to return to 2019 tourism levels.

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