A strong summer of travel is expected as the tourism sector begins its road to recovery from late March onwards, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC).
The council added that many major travel companies are already reporting a significant rise in forward bookings.
The sector’s revival is backed by the WTTC’s latest economic forecast, which gives further hope for the year ahead to businesses and millions of people employed in the sector worldwide.
Last year, during the height of the pandemic, the WTTC warned that 174m global Travel & Tourism jobs were at risk. However, in its latest analysis, the council’s most optimistic scenario predicts that as many as 111 million jobs could be revived. This would, however, still be 17% below 2019 figures, accounting for 54m fewer jobs.
This best-case scenario, with travel recovery starting from late March, factors in widespread vaccination programmes and a swift adoption of comprehensive test-and-trace regimes. This would come together with continual, strong international coordination from the private and public sectors.
The forecast’s more conservative outcome would still see a return of 84m jobs, but this would be 25% below 2019 levels, with 82m fewer jobs.
Under this scenario, the recovery of international travel is pushed to the second half (H2) of 2021. Vaccines would be rolled out more gradually, slowing down the removal of worldwide travel barriers and restrictions currently in place, while depressing demand to travel and reducing consumer confidence.
Gloria Guevara, WTTC President and CEO, said, “We are looking forward to a strong summer of travel, thanks to a combination of mask wearing, the global vaccination rollout and testing on departure unlocking the door to international travel once more.”
She added, “Our latest research supports this and shows there is definitely hope on the horizon for the global Travel and Tourism sector in the year ahead, with the possible recovery of up to 111m jobs.”
Guevara also said that this projected outcome will come as huge relief and be welcomed as the beginning of the long-awaited recovery. She added that the Travel and Tourism sector has for long borne the brunt of hugely damaging travel restrictions.
“The WTTC first predicted the return of the sector through its 100 Million Jobs Recovery Plan,” Guevara noted, “This was presented at last October’s historic G20 Tourism Ministers meeting, which was attended, for the first time, by 45 WTTC Member CEOs.”
She added that it is believed the sector’s return will become a reality, thanks in part to the WTTC’s commitment and determination, to save and support the sector through some of the darkest days of pandemic.
“We must guard against complacency as the recovery is not a forgone conclusion,” Guevara said, “There is still a long way to go and we will encounter many more bumps in the road ahead.”
She also said that vaccinations in major source markets, such as the UK and the US, will help the Travel and Tourism navigate its way out of the pandemic. This will ensure that, once the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is over, travel can once again thrive.
“We cannot rely solely upon one solution and the rollout of vaccines to restart international travel,” Guevara said, “Testing on departure will still be critical to restore travel while respecting the safe protocols and recovering as many jobs as possible across Travel and Tourism, and throughout the wider economy.”
The new research revealed that in the best-case scenario, the Travel and Tourism sector’s contribution to global GDP will fall 17% to $7.4trn, compared to 2019 figures.
The WTTC believes this is achievable with testing on departure, the mandatory wearing of face masks, and the worldwide implementation of vaccination programmes.
In the more conservative outcome, with a slower recovery, the sector’s contribution will drop by more than one quarter (27%), to $6.5trn.
The WTTC believes these latest predictions outline the significant challenges faced by the global sector as it prepares for its recovery in the months ahead. This will be more notable once the impact of worldwide rollout of vaccination programmes is felt and travel restrictions are eased.