Travel & Tourism COVID-19 losses near US$4.5 trillion

WTTC says the sector's contribution to GDP plunged nearly 50% in 2020

The World Travel & Tourism Council’s annual Economic Impact Report (EIR) released this week reveals the full impact COVID-19 had on the global Travel & Tourism sector last year, which suffered an astronomical loss of almost US$4.5 trillion.

The annual EIR from the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), which represents the global Travel & Tourism private sector, shows the sector’s contribution to GDP dropped a whopping 49.1%, compared to the overall global economy which dropped by just 3.7% last year.

Vast losses run-up during 2020 paint the first full picture of a sector struggling to survive in the face of crippling travel restrictions and unnecessary quarantines, which continue to threaten the urgent recovery of the world economy.

Altogether, the sector’s contribution to global GDP plummeted to US$4.7 trillion in 2020 (5.5% of the global economy), from nearly US$9.2 trillion the previous year (10.4%).

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In 2019, when global Travel & Tourism was thriving and generating one in four of all new jobs around the world, the sector contributed 10.6% (334 million) jobs globally. However last year, as the pandemic ripped through the heart of Travel & Tourism, more than 62 million jobs were lost, representing a drop of 18.5%, leaving just 272 million employed across the industry globally.

These jobs losses were felt across the entire ecosystem of Travel & Tourism, with SMEs, which make up 80% of all businesses in the sector, particularly affected.

The global tourism body said it fears governments cannot continue to prop up threatened jobs indefinitely and must instead turn to the sector to help its recovery, so it can power the global economic revival by saving businesses and creating much needed new jobs and saving the millions of livelihoods that depend on the sector.

The report also reveals international travel spending was down 69.4% on the previous year.

Domestic travel spending fell by 45%, a lower decline due to some internal travel in a number of countries.

Gloria Guevara, WTTC President & CEO, said: “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.”

“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.”

“Clearly no one wants to go through what so many have had to suffer during the past difficult 12 months. WTTC research shows the global Travel & Tourism sector alone has been devastated, burdened by an unprecedented loss of almost US$4.5 trillion.”

“With the sector’s contribution to GDP plunging by almost half, it’s more important than ever that Travel & 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.”

Boulevard Saint Germain, usually one of the busiest Paris’boulevards - Paris 6 | Credit: Ann Jeanne in Paris/Facebook

WTTC says the introduction of digital health passes, such as the recently announced ‘Digital Green Certificate’, will support the sector’s recovery.

The global tourism body also urges governments around the world to provide a clear and decisive roadmap, allowing businesses time to ramp up their operations in order to recover from the ravages of the pandemic.

Lead image credit: Lei Jiang/Unsplash

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