WTTC Warns of Dramatic Job, GDP Loss Due to Prolonged Travel Restrictions

The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) is urging governments around the world to act now to save tens of millions of travel and tourism jobs that could be lost due to prolonged travel restrictions stemming from the COVID-19 outbreak.

WTTC’s latest research suggests a dire need for action to avoid losing some 197 million jobs within the sector in addition to as much as $5.5 trillion in travel and tourism GDP.

According to WTTC’s economic modeling, the aforementioned worst-case scenario in which restrictions aren’t lifted until the fall—from September for short-haul and regional travel; from October for mid-haul and from November for long-haul—would result in global international arrivals declining by 73 percent and a 64 percent drop for domestic arrivals.

The worst-case scenario would also see a 96 percent rise from the most recent 100.8 million jobs WTTC had previously estimated to be under threat due to the pandemic. Meanwhile, the $5.5 billion in lost contribution to global GDP would signal a whopping 62 percent drop compared to 2019.

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of so many lives and the devastating impact on families around the world because of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Gloria Guevara, WTTC President and CEO, in a statement. “This terrible virus has also had a crushing global socio-economic impact, which is threatening the jobs of millions of people who very livelihoods depend upon a thriving travel and tourism sector for their survival.”

“Under our worst-case scenario, prolonged travel restrictions could put more than 197 million jobs under threat and cause a loss of more than $5.5 trillion to global travel and tourism GDP,” she added. “The sector’s recovery will be delayed by heavy-handed restrictions just as it emerges from one of the most punishing periods in its history—in addition to the airlines, the entire travel ecosystem will suffer including millions of small and medium-sized enterprises.”

“Hotels, destinations, travel agents and others will all be devastated by the economic domino effect of prolonged restrictions on movement, plunging millions of travel businesses and their employees into financial ruin.”

WTTC also outlined baseline and best-case scenarios for the industry. The former is based on current restrictions beginning to ease from June for regional travel; July for short-haul or regional travel; from August for mid-haul and from September for long-haul and would result in a roughly 53 percent drop in international arrivals and a 34 percent decline for domestic arrivals. The impact would mean an estimated 121.1 million lost jobs in the travel and tourism sector and a $3.4 billion loss in global GDP.

Under the best-case scenario, which would require current restrictions to start easing from June for short-haul and regional travel; from July for mid-haul and from August for long-haul, global visitor numbers would drop by 41 percent for international arrivals and by 26 percent for domestic arrivals.

The model suggests that urgent action by officials to lift travel restrictions in the weeks and months to come could save as many as 98.2 million jobs and nearly $3 billion in contribution to the global GDP.

WTTC has developed a recommended four-point plan for governments to follow that includes the immediate removal and replacement of quarantine measures with “air corridors” to countries with similar circumstances and the elimination of travel advisories and bans on non-essential international travel.

The organization is also advising officials to adopt global health and safety protocols like its very own “Safe Travels” initiative and implement a rapid test and trace strategy to help contain the spread of coronavirus without shutting off travel. Lastly, WTTC wants to see more and sustained collaboration between the public and private sectors to ensure a coordinated approach to a global COVID-19 recovery.

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