The Importance of Travel & Tourism in Driving Global Economy


Restoring international travel and tourism will be vital to enhancing social progress and driving the global economy post-pandemic, according to a new Social Impact Paper released by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) in collaboration with U.S.-based nonprofit Social Progress Imperative (SPI).

The research paper shows significant correlations between WTTC’s Economic Impact Report data and SPI’s Social Progress Index scores over the last decade, with China, Cambodia, Rwanda and Sri Lanka among the biggest beneficiaries.


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Based on the research, travel and tourism enriches communities at a faster rate than the overall economy. For example, between 2011 and 2019, Southeast Asia recorded the fastest annual growth rate in travel and tourism GDP per capita at 6.7 percent compared to the region’s 3.7 percent overall economic growth. What’s more, the Middle East saw 3 percent travel and tourism GDP per capita growth compared to just 0.3 percent for the overall region’s economy.

The data also puts the travel and tourism industry’s impact on jobs in perspective. Globally, one job is created for every 34 international visitors to a destination. But the impact is far greater in regions such as Africa, Asia-Pacific and the Middle East, where it only takes 11, 13 and 24 international visitors, respectively, to create one new job. For every direct job created globally, nearly two new jobs are created on an indirect or induced basis, the paper shows. This means one direct job in the travel and tourism sector creates a total of three jobs.

The WTTC’s latest economic modeling estimates that as many as 174 million travel- and tourism-related jobs were impacted globally in 2020. The pandemic has hit some countries harder than others, however.

The latest research from WTTC and SPI also reveals that for every $1 generated in direct travel and tourism GDP globally, more than $2 is generated indirectly.

“WTTC is proud to release this important research focusing on social impact, which highlights how critical travel and tourism is to our world,” WTTC President and CEO Gloria Guevara said in a statement. “Travel and tourism is one of the most diverse sectors, employing people from all socio-economic backgrounds regardless of age, gender or ethnicity, with almost 54 percent of whom are women and up to 30 percent youths.”

“After nearly a full year of insecurity and hardship that has come from the COVID-19 pandemic, the time could not be more appropriate to celebrate the importance of the sector,” she concluded.


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