As many as 111 million travel and tourism jobs could return as the world recovers from the crippling Covid-19 pandemic.
A strong summer of travel is expected as recovery kicks in from late March, with many major travel companies reporting a significant rise in forward bookings, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council.
The organisation had warned that 174 million global travel and tourism jobs were at risk during the height of the crisis last year.
However, new WTTC analysis predicts that up to 111 million jobs could be revived – but this would still be 17% below 2019 figures, accounting for 54 million fewer roles.
The “best-case scenario,” with travel recovery starting from late March, factors in widespread vaccination programmes and a swift adoption of comprehensive test-and-trace regimes, together with strong international co-ordination from the private and public sectors.
The forecast’s more conservative outcome would still see a return of 84 million jobs, but this would be 25% below 2019 levels, with 82 million fewer jobs recovered.
Under this scenario, the recovery of international travel is pushed to the second half of 2021. Vaccines would be rolled out more gradually, slowing down the removal of worldwide travel barriers and restrictions, while depressing demand to travel and reducing consumer confidence.
Even in the best case option, the sector’s contribution to global GDP will fall 17% to $7.4 trillion compared to 2019 figures.
WTTC believes this is achievable with testing on departure, mandatory mask wearing and the worldwide implementation of vaccination programmes.
But in the more conservative outcome, with a slower recovery, the sector’s contribution will drop by more than one quarter (27%), to $6.5 trillion.
The latest predictions outline the “significant challenges” faced by the global sector as it prepares to recover once the impact of worldwide rollout of vaccination programmes is felt and travel restrictions are eased.
WTTC president and chief executive Gloria Guevara said: “We are looking forward to a strong summer of travel, thanks to a combination of mask wearing, the global vaccination rollout and testing on departure unlocking the door to international travel once more.
“Our latest research supports this and shows there is definitely hope on the horizon for the global travel and tourism sector in the year ahead, with the possible recovery of up to 111 million jobs.
“This projected outcome will come as huge relief and be welcomed as the beginning of the long-awaited recovery, for a sector which has for so long suffered the brunt of hugely damaging travel restrictions.”
She added: “But we must guard against complacency as the recovery is not a forgone conclusion.
“There is still a long way to go and we will encounter many more bumps in the road ahead. Vaccinations in major source markets, such as the UK and the US, will help us navigate our way out of the pandemic into a world where travel can once again thrive.
“We cannot rely solely upon one solution and the rollout of vaccines to restart international travel; testing on departure will still be critical to restore travel while respecting the safe protocols and recovering as many jobs as possible across travel and tourism, and throughout the wider economy.”