The World Travel & Tourism Council’s (WTTC) annual Economic Impact Report (EIR) reveals that the dramatic collapse of Canada’s travel and tourism sector wiped out a staggering $59.2 billion from the nation’s economy last year.
The annual EIR from the WTTC, which represents the global travel and tourism private sector, shows the sector’s impact on GDP dropped 53%.
Following two consecutive years in which the travel and tourism sector’s growth equalled or outpaced that of the overall economy, its contribution to the nation’s GDP fell from $111.6 billion (6.4%) in 2019, to $52.4 billion (3.2%), just 12 months later, in 2020.
The year of damaging travel restrictions which brought much of international travel to a grinding halt, resulted in the devastating loss of 373,000 travel and tourism jobs across the country.
However, WTTC believes the true picture could have been significantly worse, if not for the government’s job retention scheme which offered a lifeline to thousands of businesses and workers.
However, without a swift return of international travel, many more jobs are still at risk.
These job losses were felt across the entire travel and tourism ecosystem in the country, with SMEs, which make up eight out of 10 of all global businesses in the sector, particularly affected.
Furthermore, as one of the world’s most diverse sectors, the impact on women, youth and minorities was significant.
The number of those employed in the Canadian travel and tourism sector fell from nearly 1.8 million in 2019, to just over 1.4 million in 2020 - a drop of 20.9%.
The report also revealed domestic visitor spending declined by 51%, while international spending fared even worse, due to more stringent travel restrictions, causing a fall of 71.1%.
“The loss of 373,000 travel and tourism jobs in Canada has had a monumental socio-economic impact, leaving huge numbers of people fearing for their future,” said Virginia Messina, senior vice-president of the WTTC.
“However, the situation could have been far worse if it were not for the government’s Emergency Wage Subsidy scheme which supported up to 75% of wage subsidy to eligible employers and in turn, allowed many to keep their jobs in the suffering Travel & Tourism sector.”
“After a slow start, there are now grounds for optimism as Canada’s vaccine rollout has just surpassed 24 million shots administered, and vaccine uptake is ever increasing.
Bring on vaccines
The WTTC says that if the vaccine rollout picks up pace, and restrictions for travel internationally are relaxed before the busy summer season, along with a clear roadmap for increased mobility and with comprehensive testing on departure in place, it predicts the 373,000 jobs lost in Canada could return this year.
“However, the government’s move to protect jobs is simply not sustainable in the long-term. We know tens of thousands of SMEs, which make up the bulk of the ailing Travel & Tourism sector, are still fighting for their survival, putting at risk the capacity of the country to recover from the crushing impact of COVID-19,” Messina said.
“WTTC believes that another year of terrible losses can be avoided if the government supports the swift resumption of international travel, which will be vital to powering the turnaround of the Canadian economy."
The key to unlocking safe international travel, says the WTTC, can be achieved through a clear and science-based framework to reopen international travel.
All non-vaccinated travellers should face a comprehensive testing regime before departure, as well as enhanced health and hygiene protocols, including mandatory mask wearing.
These measures would be the foundation to build the recovery of the many millions of jobs lost due to the pandemic.
It would also reduce the terrible social implications these losses have had on communities dedicated to travel and tourism and upon ordinary people who have been isolated by COVID-19 restrictions, the organization said.
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