Virus 'could cost millions of tourism jobs'
The global coronavirus outbreak means millions of travel and tourism jobs are at risk, says a leading industry body.
The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) says up to 50 million jobs could be lost because of the pandemic.
Its chief executive, Gloria Guevara, said the outbreak "presents a significant threat to the industry".
New figures from the WTTC suggest that the travel sector could shrink by up to 25% in 2020.
The trade body is calling on governments to take several steps to protect the industry, including:
- Removing or simplifying visas where possible, as well as reducing costs
- Relaxing "unnecessary barriers" at ports and airports
- Reduce travellers' taxes such as Air Passenger Duty
- Increase budgets for promoting travel destinations.
But Ms Guevara added: "Travel and tourism has the strength to overcome this challenge and will emerge stronger."
The tourism industry has been massively affected by the spread of coronavirus, as many countries have introduced travel restrictions in an attempt to contain its spread.
Cruise ship firm Princess Cruises is suspending all operations for 60 days. One of its cruises was kept off the cost of San Francisco for five days after 21 passengers tested positive for the virus.
British Airways, EasyJet and Norwegian Air have all also cut flights in response to the outbreak.
Korean Air even warned that the coronavirus could threaten its survival.
Chinese airline passenger numbers dropped by 84.5% last month, highlighting the huge economic impact on the country where the virus originated.
Its aviation regulator said on Thursday that the drop had caused a 21bn-yuan (£2.35bn) fall in revenue.
Travel industry experts have expressed concerns about Chinese tourists being kept at home.
In the UK, for example, there were 415,000 visits from China in the 12 months to September 2019, according to VisitBritain.
Chinese travellers also spend three times more than an average visitor to the UK at £1,680 each.
As more large-scale events are cancelled and the number of flight cancellations increases, there are fears the industry could take a bigger hit.