Back in March, the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) said the COVID-19 pandemic could cost 50 million jobs globally. Just shy of three months later and the WTTC has upped its estimate: More than 197 million jobs could be lost in the global travel and tourism sector if barriers to global travel, such as blanket anti-travel advisories and quarantine measures remain in place.
The figure—which is nearly four times the WTTC’s initial number—would be reached in “the worst-case scenario”—that is, if travel restrictions are lifted after the summer. WTTC adds that research shows if these travel restrictions are removed sooner, it could save 99.3 million jobs. (Note: The WTTC does not, however, mention how many lives could be lost should travel restrictions be lifted sooner rather than later. In 20 U.S. states, as well as Puerto Rico, cases are increasing, according to The New York Times.)
The impact of prolonged travel restrictions could also wipe out $5.54 trillion in the sector’s contribution to global GDP, equating to a 62 percent drop compared with 2019. Meanwhile, in “the worst-case scenario,” global international arrivals will suffer a decline of 73 percent, and 64 percent for domestic arrivals.
The WTTC came up with three possible outcomes for the sector:
- Worst-case scenario: Current restrictions starting to ease from September for short-haul and regional travel, from October for mid-haul and from November for long-haul. As mentioned above, 197.5 million jobs could be lost, the global GDP would take a $5.54 trillion hit and global visitor numbers would drop by 73 percent for international arrivals.
- Baseline scenario: Current restrictions starting to ease from June for regional travel, July for short-haul or regional travel; from August for mid-haul, and from September for long-haul. In this scenario, a total of 121.1 million jobs could be lost, with a loss of $3.44 trillion in global GDP. Global visitor numbers would drop by 53 percent for international arrivals and by 34 percent for domestic arrivals.
- Best-case scenario: Current measures starting to ease from June for short-haul and regional travel; from July for mid-haul and from August for long-haul. In this scenario, a total of 98.2 million jobs could be lost, with a loss of $2.69 trillion in global GDP. Global visitor numbers would drop by 41 percent for international arrivals and by 26 percent for domestic arrivals.
This best-case scenario can be achieved if governments around the globe follow WTTC’s recommended four-point plan, it says. That is:
- The immediate removal and replacement of any quarantine measures, with "air corridors" to countries with similar circumstances, as well as the removal of travel advisories and bans on non-essential international travel, which prevent insurance protection cover for travelers.
- The adoption of global health and safety protocols, such as the "Safe Travels" initiative launched by the WTTC, to provide assurance to travelers that enhanced health and hygiene measures are in place and that it is safe to travel again.
- The implementation of a rapid test and trace strategy to help contain the spread of the virus, while still allowing people to travel responsibly at home and abroad.
- Greater and sustained collaboration between the public and private sectors to ensure a coordinated global approach to the crisis.