Industry Update
Press Release14 October 2021

UK Travel & Tourism sector may only recover by a third this year

International visitor spend looks set to plunge by almost 50% on 2020 figures, making the UK one of the worst performing countries in the world 2022 performance could be better but still hangs in the balance

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World Travel & Tourism (WTTC)

London, UK - The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) says the UK’s Travel & Tourism sector’s year on year recovery may only claw back a third, whilst international travel spending continues to plummet.

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Latest research from WTTC, which represents the global Travel & Tourism sector, shows the recovery has been severely delayed by the lack of spending from international visitors.

WTTC blames strict travel restrictions, such as the destructive ‘traffic light’ system, for wreaking havoc on the sector.
Now, despite its highly successful vaccine rollout, the UK is set to record further losses in inbound visitor spending than the previous year, a year in which international travel ground to an almost complete standstill.

At the current rate of recovery, WTTC research shows the UK’s Travel & Tourism sector’s contribution to the nation’s economy could rise year on year by just under a third (32%) in 2021, broadly in line with the global average of 30.7%.

However, research conducted by the global tourism body shows the increase has been primarily spurred on by the recent boom in domestic travel, with domestic spending growth set to experience a year on year rise of 49% in 2021.

While this surge in domestic travel has provided a much-needed boost, it will not be enough to achieve a full economic recovery and save millions of jobs still under threat.

The research goes on to show that international spending is predicted to plunge by nearly 50% on 2020 figures - one of the worst years on record for the Travel & Tourism sector - making it one of the worst performing countries in the world.

While other countries, such as China and the U.S., are set to see a rise in international travel spending this year, the UK lags and continues to record significant losses.

Severe travel restrictions, ever-changing policies, and barriers to travel to the UK, such as the current requirement for visitors to take an expensive day two PCR test after arriving in the country, have had their toll.

Last year, the UK Travel & Tourism sector saw 307,000 job losses across the country and research shows that jobs in the sector are set to remain flat this year.

Julia Simpson, WTTC President & CEO said: “WTTC research shows that while the global Travel & Tourism sector is beginning to recover, the UK continues to suffer big losses due to continuing travel restrictions that are tougher than the rest of Europe."

“Despite government announcements the UK still has a red list, costly PCR tests and a requirement for day two tests which simply put people off travel. Just as the world opens up the UK has more requirements for the double vaccinated than our neighbours.”

Looking ahead to 2022, WTTC research provides grounds for optimism.

With the right measures and a strong focus on international travel, the UK could see Travel & Tourism’s contribution to GDP rise by 53% in 2022, resulting in an additional £66 billion to its economy.

International visitor spending could also see a significant increase reaching £29 billion - just 20% below 2019 levels.

Meanwhile, employment growth could see a 14% boost year on year, equating to additional 580,000 jobs in 2022, resulting in over 4.7 million jobs, which is 445,000 above 2019 levels.

About WTTC

The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) represents the global travel & tourism private sector. Members include 200 CEOs, Chairs and Presidents of the world"s leading travel & tourism companies from all geographies covering all industries. For more than 30 years, WTTC has been committed to raising the awareness of governments and the public of the economic and social significance of the travel & tourism sector.

According to WTTC"s 2021 Economic Impact Report, during 2020, a year in which it was devasted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Travel & Tourism made a 5.5% contribution to global GDP and was responsible for 272 million jobs.

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