The pandemic cost the UK £148 billion in lost tourism revenue last year, according to new research.
The World Travel & Tourism Council’s annual Economic Impact Report estimates the UK’s travel and tourism GDP fell from £238 billion in 2019, before the pandemic struck, to just £90 billion 12 months later – a 62% fall.
The WTTC estimates the impact has been the loss of 307,000 jobs but warned: “The true picture could be significantly worse” if not for government support, furlough and job protection schemes.
It estimates the number of those employed in the UK travel and tourism sector tumbled from 4.27 million in 2019 to 3.96 million in 2020 – a fall of 7.2%.
“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,” it said.
The report also revealed domestic visitor spending declined by 63% due to nationwide lockdowns. International spending fared even worse, with a fall of almost 72%.
Gloria Guevara, WTTC president and chief executive, said the loss of more than 300,000 jobs “has had a devastating socio-economic impact”.
“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 travel and tourism sector.
“There are grounds for optimism if the UK’s world-leading vaccine rollout continues at pace and travel restrictions are relaxed just before the busy summer season - alongside a clear roadmap for increased mobility.
“With all these factors in place, WTTC predicts the 300,000 travel and tourism jobs lost in the UK could return by 2021.”