The biggest crisis in the history of tourism continues into a second year. Between January and May, international tourist arrivals were 85% below 2019 levels (or a 65% drop in 2020), UNWTO data shows. Despite a small uptick in May, the emergence of COVID-19 variants and the continued imposition of restrictions are weighing on the recovery of international travel. However, domestic tourism continues to rebound in many parts of the world.
This plunge in international tourism could result in an estimated economic loss of over US$ 2 trillion in global GDP, more than 2% of the world’s GDP in 2019. Looking ahead, the massive roll-out of vaccines is gradually increasing consumer confidence and contributing to ease travel restrictions.
According to UNWTO,
- Tourism is one of the world’s major economic sectors. It is the third-largest export category (after fuels and chemicals) and in 2019 accounted for 7% of global trade.
- For some countries, it can represent over 20% of their GDP and, overall, it is the third largest export sector of the global economy.
- Tourism is one of the sectors most affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, impacting economies, livelihoods, public services and opportunities on all continents. All parts of its vast value-chain have been affected.
- Export revenues from tourism could fall by $910 billion to $1.2 trillion in 2020. This will have a wider impact and could reduce global GDP by 1.5% to 2.8%.
- Tourism supports one in 10 jobs and provides livelihoods for many millions more in both developing and developed economies.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, The WTTC Council embarked on pleading to Governments to do all they can and save the sector including 121 million jobs.
Significant and swift measures are needed to support the Travel & Tourism sector The WTTC urged governments to implement policies that will directly support the sector and save it from collapsing:
- Protecting the Livelihoods of Workers: Financial help must be granted to protect the incomes of the millions of workers in severe difficulty.
- Fiscal Support: Governments are called upon to extend vital, unlimited interest-free loans to global Travel & Tourism companies as well as the millions of small and medium-sized businesses as a stimulus to prevent them from collapse.
- Governments dues and financial demands on the Travel & Tourism sector need to be waived with immediate effect for at least the next 12 months.
- Injecting Liquidity & Cash: Cash flow assistance to support players big and small of the Travel & Tourism sector is critical as well as to offer targeted support to severely affected industries within the sector.
According to the WTTC, As many as 100 million direct tourism jobs are at risk, in addition to sectors associated with tourism such as labor-intensive accommodation and food services industries that provide employment for 144 million workers worldwide. Small businesses (which shoulder 80% of global tourism) are particularly vulnerable.