The latest data from the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) shows the U.S. maintained its position as the largest global travel & 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%.
Meanwhile, the U.K., which in 2019 ranked as the world’s fifth biggest travel & tourism market, fell three places to number eight, sustaining a GDP fall of 62.3%. Continuing travel restrictions, and crushing quarantines, caused it to suffer the biggest collapse of the 10 largest travel & tourism markets.
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.
“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,” said Gloria Guevara, president/CEO, WTTC. “This will restore mobility safely through rapid testing and health and hygiene protocols in addition to the benefit of 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 travel & tourism’s contribution to economies around the world,” she added. “It is all the more damaging when we know that one in four new jobs created in 2019 were in travel & 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.”
WTTC’s 2021 Economic Impact Report (EIR) identified other leading global travel & tourism markets as suffering similar dramatic GDP falls.
Germany dropped one place from third to fourth position, following a 46.9% drop in the sector’s contribution towards GDP. Meanwhile, Italy rose one place from sixth to fifth, despite experiencing a 51% fall in GDP contribution.
Notably, France, the world’s most popular destination in terms of international visitor numbers, rose one position from seventh to sixth, despite its contribution to GDP falling by almost half (48.8%).
“Now is not the time to take our foot off the pedal; we have to press for travel to resume faster to recover the 62 million jobs lost last year and the many millions more which continue to hang in the balance,” Guevara said. “We believe that only countries that offer certainty and a clear protocol for travel will fully recover from the pandemic. Recovery can be achieved with a combination of rapid resting, mask wearing and enhanced health and hygiene measures to complement the vaccine rollout.”
She continued, “Globally, in 2019, one in 10 jobs depended on our sector and the international coordination and implementation of clear mobility protocols to resume international travel will not only protect these jobs, but they would also bring back to the social benefits and livelihoods of those impacted.”
WTTC 2021 EIR research revealed the global travel & tourism sector suffered a loss of almost $4.5 trillion in 2020 due to the impact of COVID-19, with nearly 62 million jobs lost, representing a drop of 18.5%, leaving just 272 million employed across the industry globally.