The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) has revealed that the travel and tourism sector’s contribution to the global economy could reach US$8.6 trillion this year, just 6.4 per cent behind pre-pandemic levels.

In 2019 the sector generated nearly $9.2 trillion for the global economy, but there was a drop of 49.1 per cent representing a loss of nearly $4.5 trillion the following year due to the pandemic.

New research from the global tourism body shows that the sector could almost recover to pre-pandemic levels this year if the vaccine and booster rollout “continue at pace”, and travel restrictions are eased around the world.

The sector could also create 58 million more jobs this year, boosting the workforce to over 330 million, which is just 1 per cent below pre-pandemic levels and an increase of 21.5 per cent on 2020.

WTTC president and CEO Julia Simpson said:

“Over the past two years, the global Travel & Tourism sector has suffered tremendous losses. 2022 is poised for a strong recovery if governments continue to open up and remove restrictions to travel. Our sector could recover more than 58 million jobs and generate $8.6 trillion which would boost economic recovery around the world.

“As people start travelling again, governments must implement simplified rules, including the use of digital solutions. Travel of the future should be contactless while guaranteeing safety.”

The WTTC is urging governments to allow fully vaccinated travellers to “move freely without the need for testing”, to “ditch the patchwork of restrictions and enable international travel using digital solutions that allow travellers to prove their status in a fast, simple and secure way”.

Towards the end of last year, the global tourism body forecast that business travel spend will reach two thirds of pre-Covid levels by 2022, with the Middle East and Asia Pacific regions set to lead the way.