The world travel and tourism sector last year suffered a massive loss of nearly $4.5 trillion due to virus-related travel restrictions, border shutdowns, and drop in consumer demand, according to new research by an industry group.
The sector's contribution to global GDP plunged 49.1% year-on-year to $4.7 trillion in 2020 (5.5% of the global economy), the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) said on Thursday.
The previous year the figure was nearly $9.2 trillion or 10.4% of the global economy, meaning the figure dropped by about half.
With the loss of 62 million sector jobs last year, the coronavirus pandemic left 272 million employed across the industry globally.
And the threat persists, the report argued, as many of these jobs are currently supported by government retention schemes and reduced hours, and without a full recovery of travel and tourism they could be lost.
The report also said international travel spending slipped 69.4% compared to the previous year, while domestic travel spending posted a lower decline of 45%.
On the plus side, the sector’s contribution to global GDP could rise sharply this year, up 48.5% from last year. This figure is expected to overtake 2019 levels by 2022, with a further year-on-year rise of 25.3%.
If the global vaccine rollout continues at pace, and travel restrictions are relaxed just before the busy summer season, the 62 million jobs lost in 2020 could return by 2022.