The World Travel and Tourism Council forecasts a massive surge in global travel spending over the next ten years, with the industry employing almost 12 per cent of people worldwide. Jenny Southan reports

Global tourism body, the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), predicts that the sector will grow its GDP contribution to US$15.5 trillion by 2033, up from US$9.5 trillion in 2023, which is just 5 per cent below 2019 levels when travel was at its highest.

Last year, despite the economic and geopolitical difficulties, the travel and tourism sector’s recovery continued at pace, growing 22 per cent year-on-year to reach US$7.7 trillion. Today, 34 countries have exceeded 2019 levels.

This recovery represented 7.6 per cent of the global economy in 2022, the highest sector contribution since 2019, although its global GDP is still 22.9 per cent behind its 2019 peak.

Although the increase travel and tourism will put a huge strain on popular destinations, as well as the environment, it will also create livelihoods for people.

In ten years’ time, 430 million people (11.6 per cent of the population) will be working in travel and tourism jobs. This is from a pre-pandemic high of more than 334 million, but the pandemic ravaged employment in the sector, which saw losses of more than 70 million to bring the total number employed in 2020 to just 264 million.

Following the recovery of 11 million jobs in 2021, the sector created 21.6 million new jobs in 2022 to reach more than 295 million globally – one in 11 jobs worldwide.

WTTC research also shows that the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and prolonged travel restrictions imposed by a number of countries such as China had a significant impact on the global recovery.

But the recent decision by the Chinese government to reopen its borders from January 2023 is propelling the sector forwards and will see it recover to pre-pandemic levels next year.

Julia Simpson, WTTC president and CEO, says: “The travel and tourism sector continues to recover at pace, demonstrating the resilience of the sector and the enduring desire to travel. 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.”

WTTC forecasts that by the end of 2023, nearly half of the 185 countries will have either fully recovered to pre-pandemic levels or be within 95 per cent of full recovery.