The number of travel and tourism jobs worldwide is expected to grow only 0.7 per cent this year, with the sector hampered by movement restrictions and uneven access to Covid-19 vaccines, the World Travel and Tourism Council said.
Governments could save almost 19 million jobs before the end of 2021 if they continued to loosen travel restrictions and allowed travellers to show digital proof of vaccination and testing, the council said in a report.
It said they would also have to recognise all vaccines approved by the World Health Organisation and standardise safety rules for international travel.
"If governments can start looking internationally and support travel and tourism with simplified rules to enable the safe return of travel, there is the opportunity to save jobs and boost economic wealth," said Julia Simpson, WTTC president and chief executive.
The Covid-19 pandemic brought the travel and tourism sector to a near-standstill in 2020, with border closures, grounded aircraft and massive job losses.
Last year, the economic slowdown brought on by the pandemic wiped out 62 million travel and tourism jobs globally and the number of jobs will rise only 0.7 per cent this year unless governments take more decisive action, the WTTC said.
"While next year is looking more positive in terms of the global economy and jobs, the current rate of recovery is simply not fast enough and is in the most part driven by domestic travel, which will not achieve a full economic recovery," Ms Simpson said.
The number of travel and tourism jobs could rise to pre-pandemic levels of 2019 by next year if governments introduced the right measures, the WTTC said.
Jobs could pass 2019 levels, up 20.1 per cent year on year, to more than 349 million as the sector's contribution to the world economy rises in 2022, the WTTC data showed.
This year, the sector's contribution to the global gross domestic product will increase by less than a third because of its continued sluggish recovery.
A rebound in travel and tourism has been hindered by the lack of international co-ordination, travel restrictions and slower vaccination rates in some parts of the world, the WTTC said.
It said that in 2019, the sector contributed nearly $9.2 trillion to the global economy. But in 2020, the slowdown resulted in a 49.1 per cent year-on-year drop in the sector's contribution to the world GDP.
While the global economy is set to receive a modest 30.7 per cent year-on-year increase from travel and tourism in 2021, this will only represent $1.4tn and is mainly driven by domestic spending.
At the current rate of recovery, the sector's contribution to the global economy could lead to a similarly moderate year-on-year rise of 31.7 per cent in 2022, WTTC data showed.