Health and Healthcare Systems

This is how coronavirus could affect the travel and tourism industry

A passenger wears a protective face mask as she passes in front of a departures boards at Arlanda International Airport, near Stockholm, Sweden March 16, 2020. TT News Agency/Fredrik Sandberg via REUTERS      ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. SWEDEN OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SWEDEN. - RC2YKF9Y4IJ1

Airlines and cruise ships are currently more affected than hotels. Image: via REUTERS

Joan Faus
Reporter, Reuters
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COVID-19

  • The World Travel and Tourism Council has warned the COVID-19 pandemic could cut 50 million jobs worldwide in the travel and tourism industry.
  • Asia is expected to be the worst affected.
  • Once the outbreak is over, it could take up to 10 months for the industry to recover.
  • The tourism industry currently accounts for 10% of global GDP.

The coronavirus epidemic is putting up to 50 million jobs in the global travel and tourism sector at risk, with travel likely to slump by a quarter this year, Asia being the most affected continent, the World Travel and Tourism Council has said.

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This impact would depend on how long the epidemic lasts and could still be exacerbated by recent restrictive measures, such as those taken by the U.S. administration on travel to Europe, WTTC’s managing director Virginia Messina told Reuters.

“Certain measures are not helping and they can prompt the economic impact to be way more significant,” Messina said referring to the U.S. decision.

She argued that such policies are too generic and not proven to be effective to contain the virus. She also said that such restrictions could complicate travel by medical experts and delivery of medical supplies.

People wear protective masks, amid coronavirus fears, at Guarulhos International Airport in Guarulhos, Sao Paulo state, BraziI March 12, 2020. Picture taken March 12, 2020. REUTERS/Rahel Patrasso - RC2YIF91J9G8
Airlines have seen a sharp decrease in passengers. Image: REUTERS/Rahel Patrasso

Around 850,000 people travel each month from Europe to the United States, equivalent to a $3.4 billion monthly contribution to the U.S. economy, Messina said.

Of the 50 million jobs that could be lost, around 30 million would be in Asia, seven million in Europe, five million in the Americas and the rest in other continents, she projected.

Empty chairs are seen on a beach which is usually full of tourists, amid fear of coronavirus in Phuket, Thailand March 11, 2020. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun - RC2NHF9SD709
An empty beach in Phuket, Thailand. Image: REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

The equivalent to a loss of three months of global travel in 2020 could lead to a corresponding reduction in jobs of between 12% and 14%, the WTTC said, also calling on governments to remove or simplify visas wherever possible, cut travel taxes and introduce incentives once the epidemic is under control.

She also encouraged flexibility in the sector, so that travelers can postpone and not cancel their plans.

Coronavirus Covid-19 virus infection China Hubei Wuhan contagion spread travel trade health industry economics
It could take up to 10 months for tourism industry to recover from the shock of coronavirus. Image: WTTC

By sector, airlines and cruise ships were currently being more impacted than hotels, the official added.

The tourism industry accounts for 10% of the world’s GDP and jobs.

The WTTC official defended the confinement of certain towns - as is currently happening in Italy and Spain - if health officials recommend it to contain the outbreak, but only in specifically targeted areas or for certain age groups.

Messina estimated that, once the outbreak is under control, it would take up to 10 months for the tourism sector to return to its normal levels.

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