The UK economy could lose a “staggering” £22bn this year as the tourism industry is hit by a massive drop in international travel as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, a global tourism body has warned.
The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) also said that London’s position as a hub for business and leisure travel was under threat.
It comes after the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) said the sector “desperately” needs more government help. It said on Tuesday that 39,000 jobs had already been lost or put at risk in the travel industry due to the pandemic.
In a report today, WTTC said the lack of international visitors meant tourism spending in the UK could collapse to just 22 per cent of its 2019 level. This would add up to a loss of around £60m per day to the UK economy.
Gloria Guevara, president and chief executive of WTTC, said the UK’s tourism sector “could take years to recover”.
WTTC said that London is particularly dependent on international visitor spending. In 2018, the latest available data, foreigners made up 85 per cent of all tourism spending in the city.
The global tourism body warned the loss of international spending “could have a profound long-term impact on the UK’s capital for years to come”.
WTTC calls for test and trace programme
Guevara called on the government to put in place “rapid, comprehensive and cost-effective test and trace programmes at departure points across the country”.
“International coordination to re-establish transatlantic travel – for business and leisure trips – would provide a vital shot in the arm for the travel and tourism sector,” she added.
The UK government has put in place a “travel corridor” system that lets Britons travel to certain countries without having to quarantine when they come back.
However, it has recently taken numerous countries off this list, meaning returning travellers have to isolate for 14 days upon their return. Favourite travel destinations such as Spain, France, and Croatia are now subject to quarantine rules.
Travel industry groups and airports such as Heathrow have pushed the government to put in place testing regimes that would let people travel freely if they do not have coronavirus.
WTTC said that during 2019, travel and tourism was responsible for almost 4m UK jobs, or 11 per cent of the country’s total workforce. It said it also generated nearly £200bn of GDP, around nine per cent of total output.