As many as 2.4 million UK travel and tourism industry jobs are under threat in 2020 if barriers to global travel remain in place.
The warning came from the World Travel & Tourism Council ahead of a new lockdown being imposed in England from Thursday amid a second wave of Covid-19.
The figure is down 17% from a total of 2.9 million estimated in a previous study in June.
The revised figure of indicates a “small but positive gain” partly driven by the introduction of quarantine-free air corridors that month and a rise in domestic travel.
However, WTTC estimates that the impact of prolonged travel restrictions could wipe out £124 billion in the sector’s contribution to UK GDP, equating to a 62% drop compared with 2019.
A total of 1.9 million jobs in the UK across the trade have been already impacted.
The figure could rise by 500,000 if there is no immediate alleviation of restrictions on international travel, according to latest WTTC economic modelling.
This would represent more than half of all jobs in the sector in the UK in 2019.
The lack of international travel could threaten London’s position as one of the world’s premier hubs for business and leisure travel.
WTTC president and chief executive Gloria Guevara said: “The depth of the long-term crisis facing the UK travel and tourism sector, if restrictions on travel continue in the months ahead, is evident from the latest WTTC figures.
“While we recognise and thank the UK government for its efforts to support the UK travel and tourism sector, and for the creation of the Global Travel Taskforce, our estimates report that – with international travel restrictions in place throughout the summer months and continuing now – a total of 2.4 million travel and tourism jobs across the UK could be hit, with a loss of £124 billion in GDP.
“We fully understand that protecting public health is the number one priority. However, the sector’s recovery will be delayed even further unless countries implement measures to reactivate travel responsibly, such as the implementation of a testing protocol for travellers.”
She added: “It is vital that air corridors are restored between the world’s leading financial hubs, such as the hugely important London–New York route or London–Dubai, to help kick-start the UK and global economic recovery and avoid the devastating and far-reaching socio-economic consequences which lie ahead.
“It is clear that only international co-operation at the highest level, and engagement with the public and private sector, can save the beleaguered travel and tourism sector as it continues its fight for survival.
“We need to learn to co-exist with this virus and measures should be in place to reactivate both inbound and outbound travel responsibly and avoid the economic and social hardship.
“A number of countries are doing this successfully, such as China, which has shown a particularly strong recovery of its domestic market.”