The coronavirus epidemic is putting up to 50 million jobs in the global travel and tourism sector at risk, with travel likely to slump by a quarter this year, with Asia being the most affected continent, the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) said on Friday.
This impact would depend on how long the epidemic lasts and could still be exacerbated by recent restrictive measures, such as those taken by the U.S. administration on travel to Europe, WTTC's managing director Virginia Messina told Reuters.
"Certain measures are not helping and they can prompt the economic impact to be way more significant," Messina said referring to the U.S. decision.
She argued that such policies are too generic and not proven to be effective to contain the virus. She also said that such restrictions could complicate travel by medical experts and delivery of medical supplies.
Around 850,000 people travel each month from Europe to the United States, equivalent to a 3.4 billion U.S. dollars monthly contribution to the U.S. economy, she said.
Of the 50 million jobs that could be lost, around 30 million would be in Asia, seven million in Europe, five million in the Americas and the rest in other continents, Messina projected.
The equivalent to a loss of three months of global travel in 2020 could lead to a corresponding reduction in jobs of between 12 percent and 14 percent, the WTTC said, also calling on governments to remove or simplify visas wherever possible, cut travel taxes and introduce incentives once the epidemic is under control. She also encouraged flexibility in the sector, so that travelers can postpone and not cancel their plans.
By sector, airlines and cruise ships were currently being more impacted than hotels, the official added.
The tourism industry accounts for 10 percent of the world's GDP and jobs. Messina estimated that, once the outbreak is under control, it would take up to 10 months for the tourism sector to return to its normal levels.