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WTTC Report Reveals Dramatic Impact of Covid-19 on Int’l Travel

Photo source: WTTC Economic Trends Report 2021

The World Travel & Tourism Council’s (WTTC) annual Economic Trends Report, released earlier this week, reveals the “dramatic impact” of Covid-19 on travel and tourism around the world.

According to the latest data, Asia Pacific was the region hit hardest by the pandemic, followed by Europe.

More specifically, Asia-Pacific was the worst performing region, with the sector’s contribution to GDP dropping a damaging 53.7 percent, compared to the global fall of 49.1 percent.

International visitor spending was particularly hard hit across Asia Pacific, falling by 74.4 percent, as many countries across the region closed their borders to inbound tourists. Domestic spending witnessed a lower but equally punishing decline of 48.1 percent.

Travel and tourism employment in the region fell by 18.4 percent, equating to a shocking 34.1 million jobs.

However, despite this decline, Asia-Pacific remained the largest region for the sector’s employment in 2020, accounting for 55 percent (151 million) of all global travel and tourism jobs.


Source: WTTC Economic Trends Report 2021

The European travel and tourism sector suffered the second biggest economic collapse in 2020, dropping by 51.4 percent or 987 billion euros, the WTTC report also found.

This significant and damaging decline was in part due to continuing mobility restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The report showed domestic spending in Europe declined by 48.4 percent, offset by some intra-regional travel, however international spending fell at an even sharper rate, by 63.8 percent.

Despite this, Europe remained the top global region for international visitor spending.

On the other hand, travel and tourism employment still suffered across the continent, falling 9.3 percent, equating to a dramatic loss of 3.6 million jobs.

Source: WTTC Economic Trends Report 2021


Travel and tourism GDP in Africa dropped by 49.2 percent  in 2020, in line with the global average.

Domestic spending declined by 42.8 percent, while international spending saw a much steeper contraction at 66.8 percent.

In terms of employment losses, Africa suffered disproportionately more than other regions, falling 29.3 percent, representing a staggering 7.2 million jobs.

Middle East

Travel and tourism’s contribution to GDP in the Middle East decreased significantly in 2020, dropping 51.1 percent.

While domestic spending declined 42.8 percent, international spending saw a much steeper fall of 70.3 percent, in part driven by severe restrictions.

Americas and the Caribbean

Despite a 42.4 percent decline in travel and tourism GDP in 2020, the Americas was the least affected major region globally.

As a result, it remained the largest region in terms of its economic importance, accounting for 35 percent of global direct travel and tourism GDP.

While domestic spending dropped by 38.9 percent, international spending saw a significantly sharper decline of 72.1 percent due to severe travel restrictions on inbound visitors.

The Caribbean, which is as a region highly reliant upon international visitors, was the worst affected ‘sub-region’ globally. Its travel and tourism GDP fell 58 percent last year, from 14.1 percent  of its total economy in 2019, to just 6.4 percent in 2020.

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