The World Travel & Tourism Council’s annual Economic Impact Report (EIR) today reveals that the dramatic collapse of the UK’s Travel & Tourism sector has wiped out a staggering £148 billion from the UK economy.
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 by a precipitous 62.3%.
Travel & Tourism GDP fell from £238 billion (10.1%) in 2019 before the pandemic struck, to just £90 billion (4.2%), a mere 12 months later, in 2020.
The year of crippling travel restrictions, and ineffective quarantines, which have brought international travel to a grinding halt, has resulted in the loss of 307,000 Travel & Tourism jobs across the country.
However, WTTC believes the true picture could be significantly worse, if not for government fiscal and liquidity incentives, as well as furlough and job protection schemes which across all sectors is currently protecting more than 11 million jobs, hiding the true extent of the losses and the devastating social impact they could bring.
According to latest figures*, the UK government is estimated to have spent more than £46 billion on job retention schemes, with that figure expected to rise to £80 billion by the time the programs end in October 2021.
These job losses were felt across the entire UK Travel & Tourism ecosystem, with SMEs, which make up eight out of 10 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.
The number of those employed in the UK Travel & Tourism sector tumbled from 4.27 million in 2019, to 3.96 million in 2020 – a fall of 7.2%.
The report also revealed domestic visitor spending declined by 63.2% due to nationwide lockdowns, while international spending fared even worse, because of stringent travel restrictions, ineffective quarantines and constantly changing government policies, causing a fall of 71.6%.
Gloria Guevara, President & CEO WTTC, said: “The loss of more than 300,000 Travel & Tourism jobs across the UK has had a devastating socio-economic impact, leaving huge numbers of people fearing for their future.
“But the situation could have been far worse if it were not for the government’s prompt action, which introduced job retention schemes to save millions of jobs under threat and helped to halt the total collapse of the Travel & Tourism sector.
“There are grounds for optimism if the UK’s world-leading vaccine rollout continues at pace and travel restrictions are relaxed just before the busy summer season – alongside a clear roadmap for increased mobility. With all these factors in place, WTTC predicts the 300,000 Travel & Tourism jobs lost in the UK could return this year.
“Our concern is that the government’s courageous move to protect jobs is not sustainable in the long-term. We know tens of thousands of SMEs, which make up the bulk of the embattled Travel & Tourism sector, are still fighting for their survival, putting at risk the capacity of the country to recover from the crushing impact of COVID-19.
“WTTC believes that another year of terrible losses can be avoided if the government supports the swift resumption of international travel, which will be vital to powering the turnaround of the UK economy.
“Our research shows that if mobility and international travel resumes by June this year, the sector’s contribution to global GDP could rise sharply in 2021, by 48.5%, year-on-year.”
WTTC says the key to unlocking safe international travel can be achieved through a clear and science-based framework to reopen international travel.
All non-vaccinated travellers should face a comprehensive testing regime before departure, as well as enhanced health and hygiene protocols, including mandatory mask wearing. Digital health passes, such as the European Commission’s Digital Green Certificate, would display a traveller’s COVID-19 status, which would further enable safe international travel.
These measures would be the foundation to build the recovery of the many millions of jobs lost due to the pandemic and reduce the terrible social implications these losses have had on communities dedicated to Travel & Tourism and upon ordinary people who have been isolated by COVID-19 restrictions.