US travel and tourism sector lost $766 billion in 2020, WTTC report estimates

The U.S. travel and tourism industry lost a whopping $766 billion last year amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) estimates.

In the annual Economic Impact Report (EIR,) released last week, the global tourism body said the nation’s travel and tourism sector plunged 41% in 2020, down from nearly $1.9 trillion in 2019. The U.S. boasts the largest travel and tourism economy in the world, the WTTC said in a news release, and the recovery of the international sector hinges in part on the health of the American industry. In the EIR, the WTTC called the $766 billion loss “significant.”

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Per the report, at least 5.4 million U.S. jobs in travel and tourism were lost in 2020. Around the world, a devastating 62 million jobs in the sector were lost last year. 

Per the report, at least 5.4 million U.S. jobs in travel and tourism were lost in 2020. Around the world, a devastating 62 million jobs in the sector were lost last year.  (iStock)

“Travel and tourism plays a pivotal role in supplying both jobs and financial gains to the overall U.S. economy. The industry’s decline due to the pandemic has been felt across the board for families, business owners, and tour operators who rely on a thriving sector for their livelihood,” Gloria Guevara, President and CEO of the WTTC, said in a statement. 

Looking ahead as vaccines become increasingly available, Guevara remains hopeful that 2021 will be a better year.

“A restart of international travel will create more employment opportunities and empower a resurgence of the country’s economy,” she said. “Our research shows that if mobility and international travel resumes by summer this year, the sector’s contribution to global travel and tourism GDP could rise sharply in 2021.” 

COVID-19’S TOLL ON US BUSINESS? AN EXTRA 200,000 CLOSURES Guevara also praised the Biden administration’s proactive efforts to revive travel and the larger economy, lauding the $14 billion pledged to commercial airlines through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, swift vaccine rollout across the country and enforcement of mask-wearing to help stop the spread of the viral disease.

“These steps are crucial in restarting international travel and reinvigorating the U.S. economy through the travel sector,” she said.

One nation almost ready to slowly restart tourism is France. Over the weekend, French President Emmanuel Macron said officials are firming up plans to ease domestic restrictions, to welcome international travelers who have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

Over the weekend, French President Emmanuel Macron said officials are firming up plans to ease domestic restrictions, to welcome international travelers who have been vaccinated against COVID-19. (FRANCOIS MORI/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

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Macron alluded that change was on the horizon in a Sunday interview with CBS News’ “Face the Nation.”

“We will progressively lift the restrictions of the beginning of May, which means that we will organize in the summertime with our professionals in France for French European citizens, but as well for American citizens,” he said in conversation. “So we are working hard to propose a very concrete solution, especially for U.S. citizens who are vaccinated, so with a special pass, I would say.” 

More specifically, the French president said leaders are “finalizing the technical discussions” to lift infection-control restrictions with a vaccine passport-type program certify testing and vaccinations.

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“The idea indeed is altogether to offer that to the American citizen when they decide to vaccinate or with a PCR test being negative,” Macron explained. “So the idea is indeed to always control the virus, to maximize the vaccination and to progressively lift the restrictions.”

France is currently amid its third national lockdown as another wave of coronavirus cases sweeps the nation, Reuters reports. To date, the viral disease has claimed the lives of 101,339 in France, per Johns Hopkins University.