UK slips down list of biggest tourism markets after suffering 62.5% fall in GDP contribution

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Latest data from the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) shows the UK fell out of the top five biggest travel and tourism markets in 2020, after suffering a punishing GDP fall of 62.5%. The fall from fifth place in 2019 to eighth position in 2020 saw it sustain one of the biggest collapses of the 10 largest Travel & Tourism markets, due to continuing travel restrictions, and unnecessary and crushing quarantines.

Meanwhile, the US maintained its position as the largest global tourism market, despite suffering a huge 41% fall in GDP last year. China also kept its position as second biggest Travel & Tourism market, but experienced a harder GDP fall of 59.9% with Japan slightly improving its ranking – from fourth to third – shouldering a GDP fall nearly half that of China, of just 37%.

The figures from WTTC, which represents the global Travel & Tourism private sector, 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 to support 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 & Tourism sector suffered disproportionately hard due to the pandemic.”

Globally, countries experienced an average fall in GDP contribution of 49.1%, while the worldwide economy shrank by just 3.7% last year, showing how travel restrictions have dramatically reduced tourism’s contribution to economies around the world.

“However, the UK was one of the most heavily impacted of the major Travel & Tourism markets, falling out of the top five to eighth position due to the damaging and ineffective quarantines and unhelpful continuing travel restrictions. Despite the  restrictions designed to curb the spread of the pandemic, the US and China maintained their respective positions as first and second biggest travel markets,” she added.

“But both the US and China suffered damaging falls in the sector’s contribution towards their respective GDPs, with the UK experiencing the most damaging collapse of the top 10 markets with a fall in GDP contribution of 62.5%. We believe this shows that understandable but misguided actions to curb COVID-19 with ineffective damaging travel restrictions such as quarantines, do more harm than good, and end up crushing the very economies they were designed to protect. It is all the more damaging when we know that one in four new jobs created in 2019 were in tourism, so the sector will be absolutely vital to powering the global economic recovery. As vaccine rollouts continue at pace and international travel gradually resumes, Travel & Tourism will again become a priority for governments around the world,” she said.

Countries such as the UK, US and Israel have made great strides with vaccination programmes, inoculating more than half of their populations, showing there is reason to be optimistic about the future.

WTTC’s 2021 Economic Impact Report (EIR) identified other leading countries in the top 10 global travel markets as suffering similar dramatic GDP falls.

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