WTTC: Global tourism sector closes on prepandemic peak

 The global travel and tourism sector’s economic contribution will have recovered by more than 95% this year, fast closing in on its 2019 peak, which it is estimated to surpass in 2024.

The World Travel & Tourism Council said Wednesday that the travel sector in 2023 will fall just 5% below the $9.5 trillion in GDP contribution to the global economy the sector achieved in 2019, when travel was at its highest. 

According to the organization’s 2023 Economic Impact Research (EIR) report, in 2021 the global sector grew 24.7% year over year; last year it grew a further 22%, reaching a GDP contribution of $7.7 trillion.

“The travel and tourism sector continues to recover at pace, demonstrating the resilience of the sector and the enduring desire to travel,” said WTTC CEO Julia Simpson in a statement. “By the end of the year, the sector’s contribution will be within touching distance of the 2019 peak. We expect 2024 to exceed 2019.” 

The report found that 34 countries have already exceeded their 2019 levels of travel GDP, but it noted that barriers to recovery, including the ongoing war in Ukraine and prolonged travel restrictions in a number of countries, such as China, had a significant impact on the global recovery. China’s recent decision to reopen its borders will help push the travel sector to recover to, and surpass, prepandemic levels next year.

Spending from overseas visitors overall grew by a record 82% to reach $1.1 trillion in 2022, showing that international travel is firmly back on track. By the end of this year, the WTTC expects that nearly half of the 185 countries will have either fully recovered to prepandemic levels or be within 95% of full recovery.

Conducted by the WTTC in collaboration with Oxford Economics, the report also forecasts that the tourism sector will recover to 95% of the 334 million jobs it supported in 2019. The pandemic caused losses of more than 70 million, the WTTC said. 

The WTTC further forecasts that by 2033, the sector will grow its GDP contribution to $15.5 trillion, representing 11.6% of the global economy, and will employ 430 million people around the world, with almost 12% of the working population employed in the sector.

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