Nearly three million jobs in the UK – and 197 million worldwide in the travel and tourism sector globally – look set to be lost due to the collapse of travel, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC). WTTC economic modelling conducted less than two months ago predicted this ‘worst case scenario’ would occur if barriers to global travel, such as quarantine measures and blanket travel restrictions were to remain in place.
While some travel bans have been removed, many others remain, with new restrictions likely to come into force to tackle the continuing threat posed by COVID-19 and possible second spikes. However, the confusing patchwork of bans, quarantines and uncoordinated international testing and tracing measures, have deterred many people from travelling at all with the peak summer 2020 travel season all but being wiped out.
Last week travel to Spain was thrown into chaos when the UK government changed its travel advice to re-impose a 14-day quarantine period for people arriving back in the UK. This countrywide ‘travel ban’ came despite parts of Spain, such as Andalucia, the Balearics and Canaries having a lower COVID-19 infection rate than the UK.
The association estimates the UK now looks close to losing a staggering USD 186 billion from the travel sector’s contribution to UK GDP, equating to a 73% drop compared with 2019.
Gloria Guevara, WTTC president and CEO, said: “It’s heart-breaking to see our worst fears for the UK and global tourism sector coming true. The jobs and livelihoods of millions of people who work throughout the sector are disappearing by the day, despite our warning this could happen. While we acknowledge the UK government’s efforts to support the sector during this crisis, the UK alone looks set to lose three million jobs in the sector, creating an economic black hole of USD 186 billion in the country’s finances. This is due to an international failure to implement proper coordination to combat the pandemic.”
The health and safety of travellers and those who work within the sector is always the number one priority. However, there is ample evidence from other countries which suggests only those who test positive should be quarantined.
WTTC had urged governments to follow a four-point plan to avoid the ‘worst case scenario’ it feared could take place. The plan recommended the immediate removal and replacement of travel bans and 14-day quarantine measures, with ‘air corridors’ to stimulate the tourism sector and the wider economy. It also urged the adoption of global health and safety protocols, such as the ‘Safe Travels’ initiative launched by WTTC, to provide assurance to travellers and those working within the sector.