Global Travel & Tourism Reaches 95% of 2019 Levels: WTTC

The World Travel & Tourism Council’s (WTTC) 2023 Economic Impact Research, created in collaboration with Oxford Economics, has revealed that the travel and tourism sector is closing in on its 2019 peak, recovering by more than 95 percent. In 2023, the sector is forecast to reach $9.5 trillion, just 5 percent below 2019 pre-pandemic levels when travel was at its highest. In fact, 34 countries have already exceeded 2019 levels. 

Last year, despite the economic and geopolitical difficulties, the travel and tourism sector’s recovery continued at pace, growing 22 percent year-on-year to reach $7.7 trillion. This recovery represented 7.6 percent of the global economy in 2022, the highest sector contribution since 2019 (although its global GDP is still 22.9 percent behind its 2019 peak). 

The research shows that the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and prolonged travel restrictions imposed by a number of countries, such as China, had a significant effect on the global recovery. That said, the recent decision by the Chinese government to reopen its borders from January should propel the sector and see it recover to (and surpass) pre-pandemic levels next year.

From a pre-pandemic high of more than 334 million, the COVID-19 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. Spending from overseas visitors grew by a record 82 percent to reach $1.1 trillion in 2022, showing that international travel is firmly back on track.

The global tourism body is forecasting that the sector will grow its GDP contribution to $15.5 trillion by 2033, representing 11.6 percent of the global economy and will employ 430 million people around the world, with almost 12 percent of the working population employed in the sector. 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 percent of full recovery.

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