The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) has launched a new report that highlights the pain points to restore international mobility, and recommendations to drive the recovery of the travel and tourism sector, while enhancing its resilience.
With the pandemic bringing international travel to an almost complete standstill due to border closures and severe travel restrictions, travel and tourism suffered more than any other sector over the past 18 months.
The sector’s contribution to global GDP fell from nearly US$9.2 trillion in 2019, to just US$4.7 trillion in 2020, representing a loss of almost US$4.5 trillion. Furthermore, some 62 million travel and tourism jobs were lost.
The report, in partnership with the Ministry of Tourism of Saudi Arabia, highlights WTTC’s latest economic projections which reveal the sector’s recovery is set to be slower than expected this year, largely linked to continued border closures and challenges linked to international mobility.
The sector’s contribution to GDP is expected to rise by a modest 30.7 per cent year-on-year in 2021, representing only US$1.4 trillion increase, and at the current rate of recovery, travel and tourism’s contribution to GDP could see a similar year-on-year rise of 31.7 per cent in 2022.
Meanwhile, the sector’s jobs are set to rise by a mere 0.7 per cent this year, representing only two million jobs, followed by 18 per cent increase next year.
The report reveals pain points that focus on the urgent challenge to restore international mobility, framed by the need to address the weaknesses of the sector shown during the pandemic by redesigning a more sustainable, inclusive, and resilient future.
It demonstrates how international border closures, uncertainty due to changing rules, the prohibitive cost of testing, and the lack of reciprocity and uneven vaccination rollout have hindered the recovery of the travel and tourism sector during the past 18 months.
Julia Simpson, president & CEO, WTTC, said: “The travel and tourism sector is key for many livelihoods which continue to be affected by the failure to harmonise and standardise Covid-19 regulations worldwide. There is no excuse for a patchwork of regulations; countries need to join forces and harmonise the rules. Many developing countries rely on international travel for their economy and have been left devastated.
“As it stands, only 34 per cent of the global population have been fully vaccinated, showing that there are still large vaccine rollout inequalities globally. A swift and equitable immunisation plan, alongside worldwide reciprocal recognition of all WHO approved vaccines, is needed to safely reopen international travel and promptly resume the economic activity.”
The report outlines recommendations to achieve a swift recovery of the travel and tourism sector, including a focus based on international coordination to reopen borders, fair testing conditions, digitalisation for travel facilitation, as well as sustainability and social impact at the core of the sector.