If there is a sector with which this crisis has been primed, that has been the tourism sector.
Due to the nature of an unprecedented pandemic in our recent history, the application of harsh social distancing measures to face, as well as contain the virus, the forced paralysis of the economy, as well as the border blockades imposed by the different countries in the planet, they have condemned this sector to register a volume of losses that, in the light of the data, leave it in a very worrying situation for the near future. A situation in which, given the deterioration recorded, as well as the expected one, the forecasts that try to project a recovery are increasingly disappointing. And, as the main organizations encrypt, we are talking about a recovery that, given the latest events and the possibility of new outbreaks that are already looming on the horizon, would arrive in the year 2024.
The situation for the tourism sector, due to the situation the planet is going through, is devastating. And it is that, in the contrast with past events, never this sector had registered such a volume of losses. And it is that, taking into account that we are in the middle of the summer period, both the present month, as well as the past ones, are months in which this sector, and due to its high seasonality, has strong demand peaks. Such is the level of this demand that, only in Spain last year, the summer season triggered the hiring in such a way that, at the end of the season, more than 600,000 hires were reached. A volume of hiring that, as had happened in previous years, placed this sector as the main generator of employment in the country.
However, this summer season, and due to the situation the planet is going through, has left a hole in the accounts registered by this sector. According to estimates made by the main organizations, among which the United Nations (UN) or the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO, dependent on the former) stand out, today, the tourism sector, globally, could reach to record losses that could exceed 300,000 million dollars. All this, due to an unprecedented collapse in the history of this sector, which, in addition to these losses, endangers millions of jobs that, globally, depend on this sector. All of this, as well as the employment that, had there not been such significant declines in tourism activity and taking into account the high degree of seasonality that we previously mentioned, would have been created as a result.
A sector of large numbers
When one pauses to analyze the impact of the tourism sector on our economy, few pass by what the data offers on this. And it is that, according to the latest data published by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC, for its acronym in English), the tourism sector, with a representation of 10.4% in world GDP, is one of the sectors with the greatest contribution to said GDP, among the sectors that, together with this, contribute. Well, with an approximate contribution of 8’8 billion dollars, the tourism sector is positioned, among others, as one of the fastest growing sectors in the world, being surpassed only by the manufacturing sector. Of course, ranking well ahead of other sectors of great importance such as financial services, health or technology.
According to the latest UNWTO reports, we are talking about a sector that generates around 5,000 million dollars a day. In turn, the sum of income from foreign tourism worldwide, as well as the aggregate of the cost of passenger transport in the world, generated about 1.7 trillion dollars during the past year. This, in addition to the fact that last year also registered more than 1,400 million arrivals of international travelers worldwide, shows the importance of this sector for our economy.
In addition, having highlighted it previously, we are facing a sector that, historically, has been more resilient to events derived from the evolution of the economic cycle, such as crisis, etc. Well, in contrast, while other sectors were in a contraction situation due to the growing uncertainties or shocks that have been damaging the economy in previous years, the tourism sector has been the only sector that has been growing, in addition to doing so uninterrupted, year after year. Situation that has led it to position itself as one of the fastest growing sectors globally.
If we add to this the fact that, in addition, we are talking about a sector that, according to the figures, represents 20% of all new employment generated on the planet since 2013, as well as the fact that 10% of the world’s population is employed in this sector, few reasons remain to continue to ignore an economic engine such as, in light of the data, the tourism sector shows. Well, in the face of such a situation, the UNWTO justifies by 2.8% the drop-in world GDP caused by this sector.
Considering the current summer season, and due to the situation caused by COVID, we are talking about an unusual loss forecast for this sector.
According to estimates made by the United Nations (UN), the tourism sector, globally, taking into account the losses registered in the sector during the past five months of the pandemic, already reaches losses worth 320,000 million dollars. In this sense, taking into account that we are talking about a sector that, in addition, represents the third largest export sector worldwide -supposing 7% of all global trade-, as well as the fact that we are talking about a sector that has lost more of 50% of its activity due to the pandemic, also foreseeing an aggregate decrease in income derived from tourism that could reach 1.2 trillion dollars, we are talking about losses that, in contrast to past crises, triple the losses registered during the Great Recession of 2009.
This, in addition to the losses that this situation supposes for employment, worries the rulers a lot. Well, in many countries, tourism supports a great weight of many economies on the planet.
Finally, due to the fact that we are talking about the greatest collapse in the history of this sector, the employment that is subject to this, like the income, is in serious danger. And we are not talking about a small number, but about millions of jobs that, globally, depend on this sector and, given the deterioration, could be extinguished. In this context, a loss of productive capacity that, according to the forecasts made by the UN, could lead to the loss of more than 120 million direct jobs, which are linked to the tourism sector. In addition, as we said, without forgetting another large cast of jobs that, indirectly, survive thanks to this sector. In this sense, the UN pointed out that, in the same way, jobs in associated sectors are in danger, auxiliary services that, like food services, employ 144 million people around the world.