News: WTTC finds UK tourism suffered £148bn loss in 2020

The annual Economic Impact Report (EIR) from the World Travel & Tourism Council reveals that the dramatic collapse of the sector in the UK has wiped out a staggering £148 billion from the economy.

The contribution of tourism to GDP in the UK dropped by a precipitous 62 per cent last year, according to the body.

Tourism GDP fell from £238 billion (10 per cent) in 2019 before the pandemic struck, to just £90 billion (four per cent) – a mere 12 months later – in 2020.

A year of crippling travel restrictions and ineffective hotel quarantines, which have brought international travel to a grinding halt, resulted in the loss of 307,000 tourism jobs across the country.

This is, however, a tenth of the three million jobs, the WTTC was warning could go during the height of the crisis last year.

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However, WTTC believes the true picture could be significantly worse, if not for government fiscal and liquidity incentives, as well as furlough and job protection schemes. 

Across all sectors they are estimated to be currently protecting more than 11 million jobs, hiding the true extent of the losses, as well as the devastating social impact they could bring.

According to latest figures, the UK government is estimated to have spent more than £46 billion on job retention schemes, with that figure expected to rise to £80 billion by the time the various programs end in October.

These job losses were felt across the entire UK tourism ecosystem, with small- and medium-sized enterprises, which make up eight out of ten of all businesses in the sector, particularly affected.

The report also revealed domestic visitor spending declined by 63 per cent due to nationwide lockdowns.

Gloria Guevara, WTTC president, said: “The loss of more than 300,000 tourism jobs across the UK has had a devastating socio-economic impact, leaving huge numbers of people fearing for their future.

“But the situation could have been far worse if it were not for the government’s prompt action, which introduced job retention schemes to save millions of jobs under threat and helped to halt the total collapse of the tourism sector.”

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