A solitary passenger stands with luggage at Pudong International Airport in Shanghai, China. Picture: QILAI SHEN/BLOOMBERG
A solitary passenger stands with luggage at Pudong International Airport in Shanghai, China. Picture: QILAI SHEN/BLOOMBERG

Madrid — The coronavirus pandemic is putting up to 50-million jobs in the global travel and tourism sector at risk, with travel likely to slump by a quarter this year, Asia being the most affected continent, the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) says.

This impact would depend on how long the epidemic lasts and could still be worsened by recent restrictive measures, such as those taken by the US administration on travel to Europe, the council's MD, Virginia Messina, said.

“Certain measures are not helping and they can prompt the economic impact to be way more significant,” Messina said referring to the US decision.

She argued that such policies are too generic and not proven to be effective to contain the virus. Such restrictions could complicate travel by medical experts and delivery of medical supplies, she said.

About 850,000 people travel each month from Europe to the US, equivalent to a $3.4bn monthly contribution to the US economy, Messina said.

Of the 50-million jobs that could be lost, about 30-million would be in Asia, 7-million in Europe, 5-million in the Americas and the rest in other continents, she projected.

The equivalent to a loss of three months of global travel in 2020 could lead to a corresponding reduction in jobs of 12%-14%, the WTTC said, calling on governments to remove or simplify visas wherever possible, cut travel taxes and introduce incentives once the epidemic is under control.

Messina encouraged flexibility in the sector so that travellers can postpone and not cancel their plans. Airlines and cruise ships were being more affected than hotels, she said.

The tourism industry accounts for 10% of the world’s GDP and jobs.

The WTTC official defended the confinement of certain towns — as is happening in Italy and Spain — if health officials recommend it to contain the outbreak, but only in specifically targeted areas or for certain age groups.

Messina estimated that, once the outbreak is under control, it would take up to 10 months for the tourism sector to return to its normal levels.

Reuters

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