With the release of the World Travel & Tourism Council’s (WTTC) latest Economic Impact Report (EIR), the travel industry now knows just how devastating the COVID-19 pandemic was for the global travel and tourism sector last year.
According to the report, losses for the sector totaled almost $4.5 trillion, as the industry struggled to survive widespread travel restrictions, quarantines and other pandemic-related measures. What’s more, the EIR shows that the sector’s contribution to the GDP dropped 49.1%, a staggering figure when compared to the overall global economy, which dropped by just 3.7% last year.
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Altogether, the travel and tourism sector’s 2020 contribution to the global GDP tallied $4.7 trillion (5.5% of the global economy), down from nearly $9.2 trillion (10.4%) the year before. International travel spending dropped 69.4%, and domestic travel spending fell by 45%, according to the report.
WTTC also notes that more than 62 million travel and tourism jobs were lost last year, pointing out a particular impact on women, youth and minorities, given that the sector is one of the world’s most diverse industries.
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While WTTC acknowledges that the actions of governments around the world have helped keep those figures from potentially being even worse, the organization says more support is needed.
“Clearly, no one wants to go through what so many have had to suffer during the past difficult 12 months,” said Gloria Guevara, president and CEO of WTTC, in a statement. “WTTC research shows the global travel and tourism sector alone has been devastated, burdened by an unprecedented loss of almost $4.5 trillion. With the sector’s contribution to the GDP plunging by almost half, it’s more important than ever that travel and tourism is given the support needed so it can help power the economic recovery, which will be instrumental in enabling the world to revive from the effects of the pandemic.”
The news is not all bad, however.
WTTC research indicates that if international mobility and travel resumes by June 2021, it could have a significant positive impact for global and country-level GDPs and jobs. In fact, the sector’s contribution to the global GDP has the potential to rise 48.5% year-over-year, and have a further rise in 2022 to nearly reach the levels of 2019. WTTC also predicts that if vaccine rollout continues at pace and travel restrictions relax before summer, the 62 million jobs that were lost in 2020 could return by 2022.
For these reasons, WTTC is strongly advocating the resumption of safe international travel this June and is suggesting governments follow its four principles of recovery: a comprehensive, coordinated international testing regime upon departure for all non-vaccinated travelers to eliminate quarantines; enhanced health and safety protocols and mandatory mask wearing; shifting to individual traveler risk assessments instead of country risk assessments; and continued support for the industry including fiscal, liquidity and worker protection. The tourism body also urges governments to provide “a clear and decisive roadmap” so that travel business have time to ramp up their operations and recover from the pandemic.
World Travel & Tourism Council