Latest data from the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) shows that the U.S. maintained its position as the largest global travel and tourism market, despite suffering a huge 41 percent fall in GDP last year.
China also kept its position as second biggest travel and tourism market, but experienced a harder GDP fall of 59.9 percent with Japan slightly improving its ranking—from fourth to third—shouldering a GDP fall nearly half that of China, of just 37 percent. Meanwhile, the U.K., which in 2019 ranked as the world’s fifth biggest travel and tourism market, fell three places to number eight, sustaining a punishing GDP fall of 62.3 percent.
Continuing travel restrictions, and crushing quarantines, caused it to suffer the biggest collapse of the 10 largest travel and tourism markets.
The figures from WTTC come from its 2021 Economic Impact Report (EIR), which lays bare the devastating impact of COVID-19 travel restrictions.
Gloria Guevara, WTTC president and CEO, said: “With positive news from across Europe about the gradual reopening of borders we hope to see many more countries adopt a more risk-based approach. This will restore mobility safely through rapid testing and health and hygiene protocols in addition to the benefit of the vaccination rollout.
“The urgent need to restore international travel is starkly evident following the release of WTTC’s data which shows the global travel and tourism sector suffered disproportionately hard due to the pandemic."
“Globally, countries experienced an average fall in GDP contribution of 49.1 percent, while the worldwide economy shrank by just 3.7 percent last year, showing how travel restrictions have dramatically reduced travel and tourism’s contribution to economies around the world."
She added: “As vaccine rollouts continue at pace and international travel gradually resumes, travel and tourism will again become a priority for governments around the world.
“Countries such as Israel, the U.K. and U.S. have made great strides with vaccination programs, inoculating more than half of their populations, showing there is reason to be optimistic about the future. But now is not the time to take our foot off the pedal; we have to press for travel to resume faster to recover the 62 million jobs lost last year and the many millions more which continue to hang in the balance. We believe that only countries that offer certainty and a clear protocol for travel will fully recover from the pandemic. Recovery can be achieved with a combination of rapid resting, mask wearing and enhanced health and hygiene measures to complement the vaccine rollout.
WTTC’s 2021 Economic Impact Report (EIR) identified other leading global Travel & Tourism markets as suffering similar dramatic GDP falls.
Germany dropped one place from third to fourth position, following a 46.9 percent drop in the sector’s contribution towards GDP. Meanwhile, Italy rose one place from sixth to fifth, despite experiencing a 51 percent fall in GDP contribution.
Notably, France, the world’s most popular destination in terms of international visitor numbers, rose one position from seventh to sixth, despite its contribution to GDP falling by almost half (48.8 percent).
WTTC 2021 EIR research revealed the global Travel & Tourism sector suffered a loss of almost US$4.5 trillion in 2020 due to the impact of COVID-19, with nearly 62 million jobs lost, representing a drop of 18.5 percent, leaving just 272 million employed across the industry globally.