The annual EIR from the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), which represents the global Travel & Tourism private sector, shows the sector’s contribution to GDP dropped 56.4% in 2020.

Following 10 consecutive years in which its Travel & Tourism sector’s growth outpaced that of the overall economy, its contribution fell from €37 billion (17.1%) in 2019, to €16 billion (8.1%), 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 loss of 160,000 Travel & Tourism jobs across the country.

WTTC believes the true picture could be significantly worse, if not for the government’s job protection scheme which offered a lifeline to thousands of businesses and workers. However, this hides the real extent of the losses and the devastating social impact they could bring.

These job losses were felt across the entire Travel & 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 Portuguese Travel & Tourism sector fell from just over one million in 2019, to 843,000 in 2020 - a drop of 16%.

The report also revealed domestic visitor spending declined by 48.9%, while international spending fared even worse, due to more stringent travel restrictions, causing a fall of 63.5%.

Gloria Guevara, President & CEO WTTC, said: “The loss of 160,000 Travel & Tourism jobs in Portugal has had a terrible socio-economic impact, leaving huge numbers of people fearing for their future.

“However, the situation could have been far worse if it were not for the government’s job retention scheme that saved thousands of jobs under threat, and helped to halt the total collapse of the Travel & Tourism sector.

“There are now grounds for optimism if Portugal’s vaccine rollout continues to gain momentum, with the government now aiming to vaccinate 70% of the adult population by the end of summer.

“WTTC believes that if the vaccine rollout picks up pace and restrictions for travel are relaxed with a comprehensive testing regime on departure in place before the busy summer season, along with a clear roadmap for increased mobility, we predict the 160,000 jobs lost in Portugal could return this year.

“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 Portuguese economy.

“Our research shows that if mobility and international travel resume by June this year, the sector’s contribution to global GDP could rise sharply in 2021, by 48.5%, year-on-year.”

WTTC says the key to unlocking safe international travel can be achieved through a clear and science-based framework including rapid testing before departure, as well as enhanced health and hygiene protocols and mandatory mask wearing.

WTTC welcomes the news from the Portuguese government that it is determined to adopt the European Commission’s Digital Green Certificate, in order to enable the safe resumption of international travel.

These measures will 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 reliant on Travel & Tourism, and upon the ordinary people who have been isolated by COVID-19 restrictions.