WTTC: Global travel & tourism sector suffered $4.5T 2020 loss

The World Travel & Tourism Council’s (WTTC) annual Economic Impact Report (EIR) revealed the full devastating impact of COVID-19 had on the global Travel & Tourism sector last year, which suffered a loss of almost $4.5 trillion.

The annual EIR from the WTTC, which represents the global travel and tourism private sector, shows the sector’s contribution to GDP dropped a staggering 49.1%, this 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, the council reports.

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

In 2019, when global travel and 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 and tourism, more than 62 million jobs were lost, representing a drop of 18.5%, leaving just 272 million employed across the industry globally.

These job losses were felt across the entire ecosystem of travel and tourism, with SMEs, which make up 80% of all businesses in the sector, particularly affected. Furthermore, as one of the world’s most diverse sectors, the impact on women, youth and minorities was significant.

However, the threat persists as many of these jobs are currently supported by government retention schemes and reduced hours, which without a full recovery of travel and tourism could be lost.

WTTC, which has continually been at the forefront in leading the private sector in the efforts to restore international mobility and rebuild global consumer confidence, has praised governments around the world for their prompt response.

However, the global tourism body 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 a loss in international travel spending, which 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.

“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 Gloria Guevara, president/CEO of WTTC. “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 and tourism sector alone has been devastated, burdened by an unprecedented loss of almost $4.5 trillion.”

She added, “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.”