The collapse of international tourism is set to cost the UK economy some £22 billion this year, and place nearly three million jobs at risk.
International visitor spending for the year is expected to come in nearly 80% down on 2019 at a cost of £60 million a day, the WTTC has warned.
It has cited "continuing uncertainty around travel restrictions designed to curb the spread of Covid-19" for the severe downturn.
According to World Travel and Tourism Council’s 2020 Economic Impact Report, travel and tourism – directly or indirectly – sustained almost four million jobs, around 11% of the country’s total workforce, and generated nearly £200 billion GDP.
However, its "worst case" scenario model suggests up to three million jobs supported by the sector are at risk.
“The economic pain and suffering caused to millions of households across the UK, dependent on travel and rourism for their livelihoods, is evident from the latest WTTC figures," said WTTC president and chief executive Gloria Guevara.
“The lack of international travel caused by the pandemic could wipe out more than £22 billion from the UK economy alone – a loss of £60 million a day – from which it could take years to recover.
"It could also threaten London’s position as one of the world’s premier hubs for business and leisure travel which could see other destinations take over."
Guevara urged the government to replace the UK’s "stop-start" quarantine measures with "rapid, comprehensive and cost-effective" test and trace programmes at all major departure points across the country as a matter of urgency, adding the outlay would be "significantly less" that the impact of blanket quarantines.
“Targeted test and tracing will also rebuild consumer confidence to travel," said Guevara. "It will enable the restoration of vital ’air corridors’ between countries and regions with similar Covid-19 case rates.
“A quick turnaround test and trace system in place for all departing passengers means the government could consider reinstating travel between the UK and major international hubs."
Guevara said restoring business travel between the world’s major financial centres, such as London and New York, would help kick-start a global economic recovery.
“International coordination to re-establish transatlantic travel, for business and leisure trips, would provide a vital shot in the arm for the travel and tourism sector," she said.
"It would benefit airlines and hotels, travel agents and tour operators and revitalise the millions of jobs in the supply chain, which are dependent upon international travel across the Atlantic.”
International travel spend in the UK reached almost £28.2 billion in 2019 – £77.3 million a day – according to the WTTC, accounting for 17% of total tourism spend in the UK. Domestic travel spend made up the other 83% last year.
The UK’s largest inbound source markets, between 2016 and 2018, were the US and France, each accounting for 10% of all international arrivals, following by Germany (9%) and Ireland and Spain (each 7%).