LONDON—More than 100 million jobs could return to the global travel & tourism sector during 2021, as the world recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC).
A strong summer of travel is expected as the sector begins its road to recovery from late March onward, with many major travel companies reporting a significant rise in forward bookings.
The sector’s revival is backed by WTTC’s latest economic forecast, which gives further hope for the year ahead to businesses and millions of people employed in the sector worldwide.
Last year, during the height of the pandemic, WTTC warned 174 million global travel & tourism jobs were at risk. However, in its latest analysis, WTTC’s most optimistic scenario predicts as many as 111 million jobs could be revived—but this would still be 17% below 2019 figures, accounting for 54 million fewer jobs.
This best-case scenario, with travel recovery starting from late March, factors in widespread vaccination programs and a swift adoption of comprehensive test-and-trace regimes, together with continual, strong international coordination from the private and public sectors.
However, the forecast’s more conservative outcome would still see a return of 84 million jobs, but this would be 25% below 2019 levels, with 82 million fewer jobs recovered.
Under this scenario, the recovery of international travel is pushed to the second half of 2021. Vaccines would be rolled out more gradually, slowing down the removal of worldwide travel barriers and restrictions currently in place, while depressing demand to travel and reducing consumer confidence.
“We are looking forward to a strong summer of travel, thanks to a combination of mask wearing, the global vaccination rollout and testing on departure unlocking the door to international travel once more,” said Gloria Guevara, WTTC president/CEO. “Our latest research supports this and shows there is definitely hope on the horizon for the global travel & tourism sector in the year ahead, with the possible recovery of up to 111 million jobs. This projected outcome will come as huge relief and be welcomed as the beginning of the long-awaited recovery, for a sector which has for so long suffered the brunt of hugely damaging travel restrictions.”
She continued, “WTTC first predicted the return of the sector through its 100 Million Jobs Recovery Plan, presented at last October’s historic G20 Tourism Ministers meeting, which was attended, for the first time, by 45 WTTC member CEOs. Now we believe the sector’s return will become a reality, thanks in part to WTTC’s commitment and determination to save and support the sector, through some of the darkest days of pandemic. But we must guard against complacency as the recovery is not a forgone conclusion. There is still a long way to go and we will encounter many more bumps in the road ahead. Vaccinations in major source markets, such as the U.K. and the U.S., will help us navigate our way out of the pandemic into a world where travel can once again thrive. We cannot rely solely upon one solution and the rollout of vaccines to restart international travel; testing on departure will still be critical to restore travel while respecting the safe protocols and recovering as many jobs as possible across travel & tourism, and throughout the wider economy.”
The new research revealed that in the best-case scenario, travel & tourism’s contribution to global GDP will fall 17% compared to 2019 figures, to $7.4 trillion. WTTC believes this is achievable with testing on departure, mandatory mask wearing and the worldwide implementation of vaccination programs.
And in the more conservative outcome, with a slower recovery, the sector’s contribution will drop by more than one-quarter (27%), to $6.5 trillion.
WTTC believes these latest predictions outline the significant challenges faced by the global sector as it prepares for its recovery in the months ahead once the impact of worldwide rollout of vaccination programs is felt and travel restrictions are eased.