Global travel industry takes $4.5t losses

A report by the World Travel and Tourism Council, or WTTC, has revealed the full extent of the damage done to the global travel industry in 2020 after business was devastated by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Globally, the sector’s income slumped by almost $4.5 trillion last year. In 2019, travel and tourism was linked to one in four of all new jobs created around the world. But in 2020, more than 62 million jobs were lost.

International travel spending slumped 69.4 percent from 2019’s levels. Domestic markets also suffered, with a 45 percent reduction in business.

In contrast to an overall global economic shrinkage of 3.7 percent during 2020, the travel sector’s contribution to GDP fell by 49.1 percent.

“We must praise the prompt action of governments around the world for saving so many jobs and livelihoods at risk, thanks to various retention schemes, without which today’s figures would be far worse,” said the organization’s chief executive, Gloria Guevara.

“However, WTTC’s annual economic impact report shows the full extent of the pain our sector has had to endure over the past 12 months, which has needlessly devastated so many lives and businesses, large and small.”

After what she called a “ruinous”2020 and winter, she was hopeful that increased levels of vaccination and the gradual reopening of travel markets could help revive the travel industry.

This would in turn benefit the wider economic recovery, provided the industry was given the necessary support, and allow the damage of lost jobs to be undone.

“With the sector’s contribution to 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,” she added.

Suggestions submitted

In the United Kingdom, the Advantage Travel Partnership, the UK’s largest independent travel agent group, submitted recommendations to the government’s Global Travel Taskforce on how travel restrictions can be lifted and movement encouraged as part of the country’s roadmap out of lockdown. This would include measures such as digital vaccination certificates and wider availability of testing.

The taskforce is scheduled to publish its findings early in April, but Jeremy Farrar, director of international health foundation the Wellcome Trust, told the BBC he was not optimistic about the possibilities of travel any time soon.

“I think (the ban) will (continue), until we can see progress in Europe with the epidemic coming down and vaccination rates going up in Europe,” he said.

He said he feared so-called vaccine passports would overstep a mark of “individual freedoms and public health”, adding “public health works when there is trust and when people want to do things that are in their interests, and in the interests of their community, their families and their society”.

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