More than 197 million jobs could be lost within the travel and tourism sector if movement restrictions to contain the spread of Covid-19 continue, the World Travel and Tourism Council said in a statement on Wednesday.
The latest forecast is nearly 96 per cent higher than WTTC's previous estimate of 100.8 million jobs in April.
The organisation forecast that prolonged travel restrictions could wipe out $5.5 trillion (Dh20.2tn) of the sector’s contribution to global gross domestic product.
“The sector’s recovery will be delayed by heavy-handed restrictions just as it emerges from one of the most punishing periods in its history – in addition to the airlines, the entire travel ecosystem will suffer, including millions of SMEs,” said Gloria Guevara, WTTC president & chief executive.
“Hotels, destinations, travel agents and others will all be devastated by the economic domino effect of prolonged restrictions on movement, plunging millions of travel businesses and their employees into financial ruin.”
The WTTC said that the 197.5 million job losses would occur if global travel restrictions continued past summer. It also forecast that international visitor numbers could decline by 73 per cent, while domestic tourism could fall 64 per cent in the event of prolonged restrictions.
However, if curbs were lifted sooner it could save 99.3 million jobs within the industry and the hit to the GDP could be narrowed to $2.6tn.
The pandemic has hit airlines, tourism and the hospitality sector particularly hard, battering air travel demand as countries closed their borders to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
Airlines grounded most of their fleet while hotels had to temporarily shut down their properties and furlough hundreds of thousands of staff to stay afloat during the pandemic.
While the number of infections have reduced in some countries, they are still climbing in others, meaning governments remain wary of fully reopening borders.
In order to help the industry, the WTTC recommended governments open air corridors or routes between countries that have successfully controlled the pandemic to recommence travel.
"This will be vital to kickstart the economic recovery and rebuild the livelihoods of millions of people,” said Ms Guevara.
The travel and tourism supported one in 10 jobs, making a 10.3 per cent contribution to global GDP and generating one in four of all new jobs in 2019.