While alarming, the projection from the World Travel & Tourism Council was lower than previously expected, largely because of a strong recovery in domestic travel in China and rebounds in other countries. In June, the council warned that there could be 197 million job losses worldwide in a sector that many nations are hugely reliant on economically.
Restrictions on travel imposed when the pandemic erupted this year effectively banned flights from abroad and closed down the hospitality sectors in many countries.
China, where COVID-19 first emerged, has since managed to contain the virus better than most nations and has reopened large parts of its economy, helped in part by widespread virus testing at airports alongside health and hygiene protocols.
Lockdown restrictions have been eased around the world, but the number of travelers is way down, partly because many countries require visitors to quarantine themselves for a number of days upon arrival.
There are fears that the resurgence of the virus, particularly in Europe, will further hit the sector. The World Travel & Tourism Council said prolonged travel restrictions could eliminate $4.7 trillion in the sector’s contribution to global GDP this year, a 53% reduction from 2019.
“The sector’s recovery will be delayed even further, with more jobs lost, unless quarantines are replaced with rapid, cost-effective testing at airports on departure, and air corridors," WTTC President and CEO Gloria Guevara said.
“The longer we wait, the more the ailing travel and tourism sector faces total collapse,” she added.