The COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating for the Travel & Tourism sector, which suffered a loss of almost US$4.5 trillion in GDP in 2020 and dropped by a monumental 49.1%. While government support, including fiscal and liquidity incentives and support, has been instrumental in supporting businesses throughout the crisis, other less obvious measures have the potential to facilitate the swift recovery of the sector, such as the introduction of longer weekends, and in turn shorter working weeks.
The shift to a shorter, four-day, working week could stimulate the economic recovery including the Travel & Tourism sector and spread benefits to employees and organisations across all different sectors and industries. It would not just be good for businesses and employees, but it will generate the perfect conditions for travel getaways.
Here are 4 ways in which a flexible, four-day working week can benefit staff’s wellbeing, individual enterprises and even the recovery of the Travel & Tourism sector:
1. An extended weekend would incentivise travel both domestically and internationally
As employees have more free time on their hands, they will be eager to travel and make the most of their ‘long’ weekends. This will increase spending on travel and additional leisure spending, in turn, allowing the Travel & Tourism sector and even the wider economy to bounce back faster. Even a slight resumption of travel could generate significant economic benefits by boosting much needed GDP for countries across the world. In fact, an increase of 100 million international arrivals, would result in around $48 billion in additional GDP. Not only does this positively impact a country’s GDP but a return to travel also supports job creation and in turn reduces poverty and enhances social impact in local communities who need it most.
2. A shorter working week can benefit employee’s productivity and well-being
A shorter working week, which maintains pay levels, not only allows us more time to focus on leisurely activities but can also benefit our mental health and can even make us more productive at work. In 2019, Henley Business School surveyed 505 business leaders and more than 2,000 employees in the UK to better recognise the impact of the four-day week on the UK’s workforce. It concluded that in organisations where a shorter working week had been implemented, nearly two-thirds (64%) of leaders reported an increase in staff productivity and work quality due to a reduction of sickness absence and overall increased well-being.
3. A shorter & flexible working week can attract new talent and help retain employees in your business
Many of us have had flexible working arrangements during COVID-19 and proven that most businesses can operate successfully under these conditions. As a result, many workers are now actively seeking roles that support flexible working and shorter working weeks. The Henley Business school survey showed that nearly 64% of companies who have already implemented the four-day week as their policy said it helped them attract the right talent to their business, with older employees as well as younger ones. Beyond attracting talent, flexible working arrangements are also providing a foundation to improve employee retention and satisfaction.
4. Use longer weekends to build back the Travel & Tourism sector, as well as the broader economy
Given that the benefits of Travel & Tourism spread far beyond its direct impacts in terms of GDP and employment, it is vital that governments facilitate the recovery of Travel & Tourism, as this will also accelerate the recovery of a broader economy. In addition to facilitating longer weekends and thus a shorter working week which will enable better well-being, work-life balance and productivity, governments can also implement measures to further incentivise travel during these longer weekends. Such measures include tourism vouchers, free attractions, promotion campaigns, subsidies, tax credits and reduction of VAT, which some governments have already started implementing during the COVID-19 pandemic to re-start tourism.
This concept has already gained support from some governments, including the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, who highlighted the importance of a four-day working week in rebuilding the country after COVID-19. She suggested that employers consider a four-day working week and other flexible working options to boost tourism and help employees address persistent work/life balance issues. Similarly, the Spanish government decided to pilot a 32-hour workweek over three years, without cutting workers’ pay and putting US$60 million toward the cost of the project for those companies which request to take part.
The public and private sectors should cooperate to facilitate the right environment for a shorter working week, as well as flexible working. Whilst, a shorter working week may not be possible for all companies, it should be considered where feasible- as it will support employees’ wellbeing, job creation, increase travel spending and even enhance the livelihoods of local communities who rely on Travel & Tourism.
Read the Concept Paper: https://wttc.org/Research/Insights
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