The figures speak from themselves, with nearly all of the major tourist operators reporting drops in the number of people taking trips abroad.
But the industry is standing up to the crisis that followed the September 11 attacks, with dozens of measures taken around the world designed to strengthen tourism companies and restore public confidence in travel.
Recovery strategies and an assessment of the current situation in tourism were presented last week in a meeting of the newly created Crisis Committee of the World Tourism Organization (WTO), held on the eve of the World Travel Market trade fair in London.
The committee included tourism ministers from 21 of the countries most affected by crisis, 15 leaders of private sector tourism companies or associations and representatives of the European Commission.
'The crisis is a global one, but it must be managed on a local basis,' said Egyptian Tourism Minister Mamdouh El Beltagui, who chairs the committee.
'Some destinations are more affected than others and some types of tourism are more affected than others, so specific actions need to be tailored to fit the different situations.'
WTO reported that travel reservations worldwide currently stand 12-15 per cent below the levels of this time last year, as a result of the terrorist attacks, the war in Afghanistan and a global economy that was weakening even before September 11.
The hardest hit destinations are ones dependent on long-haul air travel, places that are heavily reliant on tourists from the United States and countries in the Muslim world, according to the new WTO study Tourism after 11 September 2001: Analysis, Remedial Actions and Prospects.
Participants agreed that the tourism sector has never before experienced a crisis of this magnitude. The immensity of the attacks, the fact that the United States was the target and the uncertainty inherent in terrorism have all combined to put the plans of thousands of travellers on hold.
Before the September attacks, world tourism was on track for an increase of 3-4 per cent in 2001. Now WTO estimates that year-end results will show growth of just one per cent in tourist arrivals.
'We expect the industry to begin to come back as the global economy improves in the second half of 2002,' WTO Secretary-General Francesco Frangialli told the committee.
'People need to travel for business and people nowadays consider holidays to be more of a necessity than a luxury, so the tourism industry proves time after time to be a very resilient one.'
Meanwhile, the crisis is proving to be a catalyst for the industry. Countries around the world have taken fiscal measures to strengthen tourism companies, they are working in closer cooperation with foreign tour operators and they have initiated new marketing campaigns.
Tourism leaders are also taking advantage of the attention given to the crisis to emphasize how important the industry is to their national economies. …