London : Up to 50 million travel and tourism jobs could be lost because of the coronavirus pandemic, said World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC).
Gloria Guevara, Chief Executive, WTTC said the outbreak "presents a significant threat to the industry".
The news comes after thousands of international flights were cancelled and some insurance firms suspended travel cover for new customers.
New figures from the WTTC suggest that the travel sector could shrink by up to 25 per cent 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; reducing travellers' taxes such as Air Passenger Duty; and increasing budgets for promoting travel destinations.
However, Guevara added that "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. Australia's Qantas is reducing international flights by nearly 25 per cent in response to the outbreak
Chinese airline passenger numbers dropped by 84.5 per cent last month, highlighting the huge economic impact on the country where the virus originated. Its aviation regulator said on March 12 that the drop had caused a GBP 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 reports.
Chinese travellers also spend three times more than an average visitor to the UK at GBP 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.