‘Travel and tourism is in a fight for survival’ - WTTC urges world leaders to take drastic and immediate action to protect and preserve the tourism sector

17 March, 2020

At the end of last week the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) said up to 50 million jobs in the travel and tourism sector are at risk due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. Midway through this week with established brands such as Austrian Airlines and brussels Airlines confirming the temporary closure of flight operations and others culling schedules by 80-90%, the depth of the crisis is clear.

Latest figures from WTTC, which represents the global travel and tourism private sector, shows that global travel could be adversely impacted by up to 25% in 2020. This is the equivalent to a loss of three months of global travel. It has now addressed world leaders and implored governments around the world to take drastic and immediate action to protect and preserve the travel sector.

In what is an unprecedented move, the WTTC has called upon the world to take urgent and immediate action to prevent this global health crisis becoming a worldwide economic catastrophe. “Doing nothing is not an option,” Gloria Guevara, president & CEO at WTTC says in the open letter.

She explains that no one can doubt that we are in uncharted territory. “The coronavirus pandemic means the world is facing a threat on multiple fronts not seen in peacetime… The travel and tourism sector is uniquely exposed... To put it bluntly, travel and tourism is in a fight for survival,” she says.

Travel is the backbone of economies around the world. It brings in essential currency and inward investment, creates jobs and stimulates every sector. WTTC figures show travel and tourism contributes to 10.4% of Global GDP and 320 million jobs. It is responsible of creating one in five new jobs and, for eight successive years, has outpaced the growth of the global economy.

“Without travel and tourism, economies around the world face an existential threat,” explains Ms Guevara. To counter this, WTTC is calling upon governments of all countries to take immediate action to help ensure the survival of this critical job-creating sector.

“Not soon. Not in a few weeks. NOW,” says Ms Guevara. “Any delay will be costed in millions of lost jobs and almost incalculable damage worldwide. Now is the time to take action.”

WTTC proposes three “vital measures,” which in addition to recovery funds, will “protect the survival of the millions of people who rely on travel and tourism for their livelihoods and welfare in the turbulent weeks and months ahead”.

These comprise financial help, which “must be granted to protect the incomes of the millions of workers in the sector facing severe economic difficulties”; that governments “must extend vital, unlimited interest-free loans to global travel and tourism companies as well as the millions of small and medium sized businesses as a stimulus to prevent them from collapse; and that all government taxes, dues and financial demands on the travel sector “need to be waived with immediate effect at least for the next 12 months”.

Closing borders, blanket travel bans and more extreme government policies will not stop the spread of coronavirus in WTTC’s viewpoint. Ms Guevara says that governments and those in authority “must not seek to choke travel and trade at this time”.

As the former Tourism Minister of Mexico, Ms Guevara has first-hand experience of containing a major, viral incident after dealing with the H1N1 influenza virus in Mexico. She says: “Past experience shows that taking such extreme action has been ineffective at best. We urge governments to explore fact-based measures which don’t affect the vast majority of people and businesses for whom travel is essential.”