The summer season has seen airports around the world filled with crowds of travelers, indicating a promising future for the tourism industry. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), travel is projected to become a $15.5 trillion industry by 2033, accounting for more than 11.6% of the global economy. This represents a significant increase from its value of $10 trillion in 2019, when it contributed 10.4% to the world’s gross domestic product.
The WTTC, a leading business group focused on quantifying the economic impact of the industry, released this 10-year forecast in May as part of their 2023 World Economic Impact report on travel. However, the data has only recently been made available to a wider audience beyond a small group of industry executives.
The report provides a breakdown of the economic contributions of the world’s major tourism markets and reveals the top five most powerful travel and tourism economies as of 2022 in terms of GDP contribution. These remain unchanged from pre-2019 rankings: the United States, China, Germany, Britain, and Japan. Interestingly, Japan has overtaken Britain in the most recent list. France, Mexico, Italy, India, and Spain complete the top 10.
In addition to GDP contribution, the report also highlights the industry’s impact on the labor market. It is estimated that by 2033, the travel and tourism sector will employ up to 430 million people, compared to 334 million in 2019. This means that approximately one in every nine jobs globally will be within the industry.
What sets travel apart is not just its significant contribution to the global economy, but also its rapid growth rate compared to the overall economy. Julia Simpson, the President and CEO of the WTTC, explains that economists predict the global GDP will grow by an annualized rate of around 2.6%. However, the travel industry is outpacing this growth.
Another noteworthy projection from the WTTC is the shift in the global travel economy. Over the next decade, China is expected to surpass the United States as the largest travel economy in the world. With an annual total economic output of $2 trillion, the US is projected to reach $3 trillion by 2033, representing 10.1% of its economy. On the other hand, China’s travel sector is forecasted to contribute $4 trillion, making up 14.1% of its economy. These figures include both spending by international visitors within the country and the amount spent by citizens on their own travel abroad.
The return of Chinese travelers in full force, anticipated by 2024, will initiate another significant wave of growth for global tourism. It is predicted that by 2033, the Chinese share of global outbound travel spending will reach 22.3%. This highlights the increasing importance of the Chinese market in the travel industry.
Overall, the WTTC’s report paints a positive picture for the future of the travel and tourism industry. With substantial economic contributions, employment opportunities, and the rise of emerging markets, travel is set to play an even more significant role in the global economy in the coming years.