The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) has revealed that the collapse of the UK’s travel and tourism sector led to a loss of £148 billion for the UK economy in 2020.

The council’s annual Economic Impact Report showed that the travel and tourism GDP fell from £238 billion in 2019 to £90 billion the following year.

This was accompanied by a loss of 307,000 jobs in the sector across the UK, though the WTTC believes that a further estimated 11 million jobs are currently sustained by “government fiscal and liquidity incentives, as well as furlough and job protection schemes”.

The report also revealed that domestic visitor spending fell by 63.2 per cent due to nationwide lockdowns, while international spending fell by 71.6 per cent due to “stringent travel restrictions, ineffective quarantines and constantly changing government policies”.

Last month, the WTTC called for an earlier restart of international travel, warning that almost £27 billion would be lost from the UK economy if the government delayed it until May 17.

The WTTC has argued that international travel can safely resume with a comprehensive pre-departure testing regime alongside mask-wearing, enhanced health and hygiene protocols, and digital health passes. It states:

“These measures would be the foundation to build the recovery of the many millions of jobs lost due to the pandemic. They would also reduce the terrible social implications these losses have had on communities dedicated to Travel & Tourism and upon ordinary people who have been isolated by Covid-19 restrictions.”

Gloria Guevara, President and CEO of the WTTC, added:

“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 & Tourism jobs lost in the UK could return by 2022.

“Our concern is that the government’s courageous move to protect jobs is not sustainable in the long-term. We know tens of thousands of SMEs, which make up the bulk of the embattled Travel & Tourism sector, are still fighting for their survival, putting at risk the capacity of the country to recover from the crushing impact of Covid-19.

“WTTC believes that another year of terrible losses can be avoided if the government supports the swift resumption of international travel, which will be vital to powering the turnaround of the UK economy.

“Our research shows that if mobility and international travel resumes by June this year, the sector’s contribution to global GDP could rise sharply in 2021, by 48.5 per cent, year-on-year.”

Meanwhile, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and London Heathrow have called for more certainty on international travel once it is permitted from May 17.