The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) is warning that the United Kingdom’s travel and tourism sector’s year-on-year recovery may only clawback a third, while international travel spending continues to plummet.
In its latest research, the WTTC found that the UK’s recovery has been severely delayed by the lack of spending from international visitors.
And it puts the blame squarely on travel restrictions, like the destructive ‘traffic light’ system, for wreaking havoc on the sector.
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 and 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, the WTTC’s research also found that 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 the 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 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 and 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.
Simpson added: “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 and 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.