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Gloria Guevara, WTTC president and CEO

WTTC calls on Boris Johnson to save travel and tourism sector

The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) has urgently called on the UK government for strong leadership and international collaboration to save the travel and tourism sector.

Over 100 of the world’s major travel and global business leaders, from airlines, airports, hotels, tour operators and travel companies, have backed the WTTC.

Those in the industry signed and sent the letter, which called for urgent coordinated action, to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and nine other heads of state of the Group of Seven (G7) countries, as well as Australia, South Korea and Spain.

The letter called on the UK’s leadership and was also sent to Keir Starmer and other such international opposition leaders, to highlight the non-partisan nature of the issue.

WTTC, which represents the global travel and tourism private sector, said that "political leaders of these major powers must step forward to save the global economy, and support the recovery of the hundreds of millions of jobs already impacted".

The council warned that, if the global leaders fail to come together, "irreversible damage" could be done to the travel and tourism sector. In addition, if the "crippling" travel restrictions remain in place, the number of jobs losses around the world will continue to increase.

According to WTTC’s 2020 Economic Impact Report, during 2019, travel and tourism was responsible for one in 10 jobs (330m total), making a 10.3% contribution to global GDP and generating one in four of all new jobs.

Despite travel and tourism’s importance to the local and global economies, WTTC is "gravely concerned" that there is no clear or internationally coordinated effort to protect the sector.

Gloria Guevara, WTTC president and CEO, said: “As the travel and tourism sector buckles under mounting pressure, and the global economy struggles to survive, we have to ask – who is in charge of getting us out of this crisis and will lead the world to save the jobs and secure the futures of the many millions of people globally?

“We have reached a stage where critical action is urgently needed. While we recognise each country must protect their own citizens and the priority to date has been domestic matters, any measures taken in silos moving forward will only worsen the plight of millions of ordinary people.

“We need to transcend politics and put the millions of livelihoods, which have been affected by Covid-19, front and centre. From cabin crew to hotel staff, travel agents to call centre agents, waiters to housekeepers, and many more who are the unsung heroes who depend upon a thriving travel and tourism sector.

“The voices of ordinary people must be heard, and we are calling on them to let world leaders know, in no uncertain terms, that the time for action is now.

“WTTC and the other signatories of the letter, sent to the leaders of the world, are committed to working together to help resolve the worst crisis of our generation, and bring back the millions of jobs impacted. However, the private sector cannot do this alone.

“History teaches us the road the recovery can be either long and painful, or shorter and less devastating. During the 2008 financial crisis, strong global leadership, and public-private collaboration, enabled us to recover in shorter timeframe.

“We cannot see the same collaboration amongst today’s leaders. We must restore the confidence to travel and put our people back to work to rebuild the global economy.

“It is vital that the leaders of these countries come together and prioritise rescuing the world from this unprecedented crisis, by acting in an effective and coordinated way to bring back more than 120 million jobs and livelihoods affected.”

Among those backing the WTTC call were the business leaders of airlines such as British Airways, Emirates, Etihad, Jet2, WestJet and Virgin Atlantic.

Business leaders from international hotel groups, such as Accor, Best Western, Hilton, Hyatt, InterContinental, Mandarin Oriental, Marriott, Meliá Hotels and Radisson have also supported the initiative.

Endorsement has also come from tour operators and travel companies, such as Abercrombie & Kent, American Express, Carlson Wagonlit, Expedia, Travelport, TUI and Uber.

In the letter, WTTC identified four measures which need international framework and leadership to combat Covid-19:

Wearing a mask

Masks should be mandatory on all modes of transport throughout the entire traveller journey, as well as when visiting any interior venue and in locations where there is restricted movement which results in close personal contact and required physical distancing cannot be maintained. According to medical evidence, such measures could reduce the risk of the spread by up to 92%.

Testing and contact tracing

WTTC called on governments to invest and agree on extensive, rapid, and reliable testing, ideally with results available in as quick as 90 minutes, and at a low cost, before departure and/or after arrival (symptomatic and asymptomatic would-be travellers), supported by effective and agreed contact tracing tools. The application of one or multiple tests, with the second after five days, could help to isolate infected people.

Quarantine for positive tests only

WTTC suggested that quarantine for healthy travellers only serves to damage the economy, and would not be necessary if testing is in place before departure and/or on arrival, and effective containment measures are taken five days later. It was suggested that this could replace blanket quarantine in a more targeted and effective way, and that it could significantly reduce the negative impact on jobs and the economy.

Reinforcing global protocols and standardise measures

The adoption of global health and safety protocols could help rebuild traveller confidence and ensure a consistent, coordinated and aligned approach of the travel experience in addition to reducing the risk of infection. WTTC also pledged its support for the Public Health Corridor Concept which "promotes a clean and safe end-to-end journey".

WTTC said that its research has shown that even a modest resumption of travelling can have "massive economic benefits" and "bring thousands of jobs back, providing a boost for the travel and tourism sector and generating GDP for economies that have been affected by the pandemic".