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MEXICO CITY, Mexico, Sept. 11, 2020 (Reuters) – The coronavirus pandemic is this year expected to trigger 12.4 million job cuts and losses worth $230 billion in the decimated tourism industry in Latin America and the Caribbean, according to the president of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC).

Tourism has been brought to its knees by collapsing demand on the back of travel restrictions imposed to curb the spread of the virus, which has infected more than 27 million people globally and killed nearly 900,000.

The hit from the pandemic would leave the industry in Latin America and the Caribbean barely a third the size it was last year, according to the data from WTTC, the main global forum representing tourism.

Job losses will be of a similar scale, the group forecasts.

“There is no country that escapes,” Gloria Guevara, president of the group, told Reuters in an interview this week.

In Mexico, the country that receives the most visitors in Latin America, the tourism sector is expecting to rack up losses worth $129 billion. Almost five million people are expected to lose jobs, equating to about 69% of the work force in Mexican tourism.

Guevara said the industry has complained about the lack of support from Mexico’s government.

Globally, the pandemic threatens to trigger losses worth $5.5 trillion in tourism and 197.5 million job losses, the WTTC says.

The sector has been further hamstrung by a lack of standardised protocols to manage travel when borders reopen, including issues such as airport testing to give tourists greater confidence and help accelerate the recovery, Guevara said.

“Unfortunately there has been very little international coordination,” she said.

Guevara said she expected the recovery to take 18 months if there is global collaboration and the appropriate measures are taken.

“If not, on average, it will easily be three or four years.”

(Reporting by Noe Torres; Writing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Andrea Ricci)

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