The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has announced that the tourism sector's losses reached $320 billion during the first five months of 2020, as the number of international tourists dropped by 56% due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The amount of revenue lost in January-May is more than three times the loss during the global economic crisis of 2009, the UN body said on late Tuesday.

"The UNWTO World Tourism Barometer shows that the near-complete lockdown imposed in response to the pandemic led to a 98% fall in international tourist numbers in May when compared to 2019," it added.

Zurab Pololikashvil, the secretary-general of the organization, said: "This latest data makes clear the importance of restarting tourism as soon as it is safe to do so."

The dramatic losses imposed risk for millions of livelihoods globally and all governments have responsibility for protecting jobs and companies, he noted.

Since first appearing in China last December, the novel coronavirus has spread to at least 188 countries and regions. The US, Brazil, India, and Russia are currently the countries hardest hit in the world.

The pandemic has affected economic activities, especially travel and tourism sectors due to measures imposed to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus -- such as border restrictions and curfews.