Government support, re-opened borders and coordination will be key to travel’s recovery, say global industry leaders.

But the heads of the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) and Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) warned travel will become more complex and the sector more competitive.

Addressing the online Evora Forum – A World for Travel, WTTC president and chief executive Gloria Guevara said: “Every country has reacted in a different way.

“We are going to be able to recover faster where governments protected the ecosystem – in France, in Portugal. How the whole ecosystem is will determine how fast we recover.”

Guevara insisted: “The sector is resilient. After every crisis, the sector recovered. The question is how fast. Collaboration will see us move faster. The private sector can’t do it alone.”

Rita Marques, secretary of state for tourism in Portugal, told the forum: “International coordination is getting better, but we have to go further to enforce cooperation at the global level.”

PATA chief executive Mario Hardy said: “The situation keeps evolving at a phenomenal rate. This is not the first crisis, but it is the first crisis of this scale and of the speed at which things change.

“We have to clarify what is fact and what opinion.”

Hardy argued: “The good news is there is immense desire to travel.” But he added: “Before Covid-19 it was easy to just jump on a plane and go anywhere in the world. Will all these routes still be available?

“Travel will come back, but most of us think it will take longer than we hope. Travel will become more complex and take longer.”

Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, secretary of state for tourism in France, told the forum: “Competition was hard before the crisis. After the crisis, it will be harder.

“The landscape will be competitive. We have to prepare, taking account of the concerns of consumers on safety and on sustainability.”

Hardy said: “We want borders to re-open. That is critical. Borders need to safely re-open. We need simple measures – testing, no quarantine, a digital health passport, vaccines when available, a set of protocols that are uniform across the world and easy to understand.

“It sounds easy. It’s not. But the industry and the world desperately need it.” He added: “It is very important destinations have a plan.”

Guevara agreed: “We need testing before departure.” She said: “There are three more things. First, we need countries to change mind set.

“Right now it is only about containing the spread of the virus. The reason we see a second wave is because we don’t follow the protocols. We need to resume travel and we need to co-exist with the virus.

“Second, leaders need to talk to one another and coordinate. The world is connected. They need to talk to other countries to get travel corridors, to get connectivity between key destinations.

“Third, we need public-private partnerships, In Portugal, Germany, the UK, France, Spain it is very good, but it is not happening everywhere.”

Lemoyne argued: “People have had an opportunity to see the importance of tourism. It is a sector that irrigates many other sectors.

“We put money on the table – many billions of euros – to save the sector. We had to be quick to take a decision. We put in place vouchers [for cancellations]. We had to convince our colleagues we need special support.”

He added: “We have to rethink business tourism. But there are also new opportunities. Many companies have put in place remote working. Many of us can travel and work remotely.”

Guevara said: “Vouchers were crucial for the survival of the private sector.”

She argued: “People think virtual meetings will replace business travel. That is not true. These [technology] solutions have been around for years. After every crisis we had a recovery. It’s just a matter of time.

“This crisis helped put things in perspective. Travel and tourism has always been taken for granted.

“When you consider one in four jobs created in the world in the last five years was in our sector, we have been impacted heavily. More than 140 million jobs have already been impacted.”