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Covid claims 62m global travel jobs as 2020 losses hit $4.5 trillion

The global travel and tourism sector suffered a loss of almost $4.5 trillion last year due to the “devastating” impact of Covid-19.

More than 62 million jobs were lost, representing a year-on-year drop of 18.5%, leaving just 272 million employed across the industry globally.

International travel spending was down 69.4% on 2019 levels.

Domestic spend fell by 45%, a lower decline due to some internal travel in a number of countries.

The full financial impact of the global pandemic emerged in a economic impact report by the World Travel & Tourism Council.

It paints first full picture of a sector struggling to survive in the face of crippling travel restrictions and unnecessary quarantines, which continue to threaten the urgent recovery of the world economy, according to the WTTC.

The sector’s contribution to GDP plunged by 49.1%, compared to the overall global economy which dropped by just 3.7% in 2020.

Altogether, the sector’s contribution to global GDP almost halved to $4.7 trillion in 2020 – 5.5% of the global economy – from nearly $9.2 trillion the previous year (10.4%).

Travel and tourism was generating one in four of all new jobs around the world in 2019, contributing 10.6% or 334 million jobs globally.

But job losses hit the entire travel and tourism ecosystem as the pandemic spread.

SMEs, which make up 80% of all businesses in the sector, were particularly affected.

The impact on women, youth and minorities was significant in one of the world’s most diverse sectors, according to the report

And the threat persists as many of these jobs are currently supported by government retention schemes and reduced hours and could be lost without a full recovery, the WTTC warned.

The global tourism body fears governments cannot continue to prop up threatened jobs indefinitely.

However, a resumption in international travel by June will “significantly” boost global and national GDPs and jobs after a “ruinous” 2020 and past winter.

The sector’s contribution to global GDP could rise sharply this year, up 48.5% year-on-year. The research also shows that its contribution could almost reach the same levels of 2019 in 2022, with a further year-on-year rise of 25.3%.

WTTC also predicts that if the global vaccine rollout continues at pace, and travel restrictions are relaxed just before the summer season, the 62 million jobs lost in 2020 could return by 2022.

The organisation’s president and chief executive Gloria Guevara said: “We must praise the prompt action of governments around the world for saving so many jobs and livelihoods at risk, thanks to various retention schemes, without which today’s figures would be far worse.

“However, WTTC’s annual economic impact report shows the full extent of the pain our sector has had to endure over the past 12 months, which has needlessly devastated so many lives and businesses, large and small.

“Clearly no one wants to go through what so many have had to suffer during the past difficult 12 months.

“WTTC research shows the global travel and tourism sector alone has been devastated, burdened by an unprecedented loss of almost $4.5 trillion.

“With the sector’s contribution to GDP plunging by almost half, it’s more important than ever that travel and tourism is given the support needed so it can help power the economic recovery, which will be instrumental in enabling the world to revive from the effects of the pandemic.”

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