Travel & tourism's contribution to global GDP in 2022 to close in on pre-pandemic performance level

9 February, 2022

New research from the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) has revealed that as the global travel and tourism sector begins to recover from the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic, its contribution to the global economy could reach USD8.6 trillion this year, not far short of the pre-pandemic levels recorded in 2019.

In 2019, before the pandemic struck, the travel and tourism sector generated nearly USD9.2 trillion to the global economy. However, in 2020, the pandemic brought the sector to an almost complete halt, causing a massive 49.1% drop, representing a severe loss of nearly USD4.5 trillion.

Latest research from WTTC shows that as the world finally begins to recover from pandemic, the sector's contribution to the global economy and jobs could reach almost pre-pandemic levels this year, but there remains the important caveat: it will only reach these levels if the recovery of the sector continues to pick up pace.

Travel and tourism's contribution to the global economy could reach USD8.6 trillion, just -6.4% down on pre-pandemic levels

Research by the global tourism body shows that if the vaccine and booster rollout continue at pace this year, and restrictions to international travel are eased around the world throughout the year - increasing the number of people who can travel 'quarantine free', the sectors contribution to the global economy could reach USD8.6 trillion, just -6.4% down on pre-pandemic levels.

WTTC's research also shows that the sector's contribution global employment could reach more than 330 million, just 1% below pre-pandemic levels and up 21.5% up on 2020 representing a massive 58 million more jobs.

'There is light at the end of the tunnel' as 2022 looks 'more positive in terms of both jobs and the economy'

"Over the past two years, due to the severe travel restrictions around the world, the global travel and tourism sector has "suffered tremendous losses," says Julia Simpson, WTTC President & CEO, but this latest research clearly shows that "there is light at the end of the tunnel" and 2022 is certainly looking "more positive in terms of both jobs and the economy".

But despite the optimistic outlook, there is much more work to be done to achieve a full economic recovery. "Governments must shift their risk assessment from entire countries to the individual traveller and allow the fully vaccinated to travel freely," she says.

Transitioning from country-wide to individual traveller-based regime

CTC - Corporate Travel Community reported last week on increasing thoughts behind a regime to base travel around individuals rather than wider country infection and transmission rates. This should help governments across the world to accelerate relaxation of travel restrictions as COVID-19 continues to evolve from the pandemic to endemic stage.

All indications point to COVID-19 becoming an endemic condition - one that humankind now has the tools (including vaccination and therapeutics) to live and travel with, bolstered by growing population immunity. The removal of travel barriers (including quarantine and testing) for those fully vaccinated with a WHO-approved vaccine will enable quarantine-free travel for non-vaccinated travellers with a negative pre-departure antigen test result, removing travel bans, and accelerating the easing of travel restrictions in recognition that travellers pose no greater risk for COVID-19 spread than already exists in the general population.

Research provides insight into developing policy for removing restrictions

Independent research conducted in Finland and Italy has provided insight into developing a Europe-wide policy for removing restrictions. The research, according airport operator association ACI Europe and airline representative IATA, "confirms the validity of the traveller-centric approach" and highlights the "inefficiency of recent travel restrictions" imposed by European countries in mitigating the risks to public health and society posed by COVID-19.

Independent research conducted in Finland and Italy by Oxera and Edge Health has revealed that pre-departure testing requirements are likely to be "ineffective at stopping or even limiting" the spread of the Omicron variant. The analysis of testing restrictions imposed by Italy and Finland on 16-Dec-2021 and 28-Dec-2021, respectively, on all incoming travellers "made no distinguishable difference" to transmission of Omicron cases in those countries.

WTTC urges governments to focus on the vaccine and booster rollout

To reach close to pre-pandemic GDP and employment levels this year, WTTC says governments around the world must continue focussing on the vaccine and booster rollout - allowing fully vaccinated travellers to move freely without the need for additional testing, and for others to travel with a negative test. It also advocates governments to continue to implement digital solutions which enable travellers to easily prove their status in a simplified and secure way.