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Covid curbs on travel cost UK economy £148bn and 307,000 jobs, report states

The dramatic collapse of the UK’s travel and tourism sector has wiped out a staggering £148billion from the nation’s economy.

The annual report from the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), shows the sector’s contribution to GDP dropped by a massive 62.3 per cent from £238bn in 2019 before the pandemic struck, to just £90bn – a mere 12 months later.

A year of crippling travel restrictions and hotel quarantines, which have brought international travel to a grinding halt, resulted in the loss of 307,000 travel and tourism jobs across the country.

However, WTTC believes the true picture could be significantly worse, if not for government fiscal and liquidity incentives, as well as furlough and job protection schemes. Across all sectors they are estimated to be currently protecting more than 11 million jobs, hiding the true extent of the losses, as well as the devastating social impact they could bring.

According to latest figures, the UK government is estimated to have spent more than £46bn on job retention schemes, with that figure expected to rise to £80bn by the time the various programs end in October 2021.

The number of those employed in the sector tumbled from 4.27 million in 2019, to 3.96 million in 2020 – a fall of 7.2 per cent.

The report also revealed domestic visitor spending declined by 63.2 per cent due to nationwide lockdowns. International spending fared even worse, because of stringent travel restrictions, ineffective quarantines and constantly changing government policies, causing a fall of 71.6 per cent.

Gloria Guevara, president and chief executive of WTTC, said: “The loss of more than 300,000 travel and tourism jobs across the UK has had a devastating socio-economic impact, leaving huge numbers of people fearing for their future.



Strict travel rules are still in place for travelling outside the UK and for international arrivals

“But the situation could have been far worse if it were not for the government’s prompt action, which introduced job retention schemes to save millions of jobs under threat and helped to halt the total collapse of the travel and tourism sector.

“There are grounds for optimism if the UK’s world-leading vaccine rollout continues at pace and travel restrictions are relaxed just before the busy summer season – alongside a clear roadmap for increased mobility. With all these factors in place, WTTC predicts the 300,000 jobs lost in the UK could return by 2022.

“WTTC believes that another year of terrible losses can be avoided if the government supports the swift resumption of international travel, which will be vital to powering the turnaround of the UK economy.”

All non-vaccinated travellers should face a comprehensive testing regime before departure, as well as enhanced health and hygiene protocols, including mandatory mask wearing, according to the report.

Digital health passes, such as the European Commission’s Digital Green Certificate, would display a traveller’s Covid-19 status, which would further enable safe international travel.

Ms Guevara continued: “These measures would be the foundation to build the recovery of the many millions of jobs lost due to the pandemic.

“They would also reduce the terrible social implications these losses have had on communities dedicated to travel and tourism and upon ordinary people who have been isolated by Covid-19 restrictions.”

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