Travel will represent a $15.5 trillion economy by 2033: WTTC


In 34 countries around the world, the travel and tourism industry has recovered so dramatically that economic activity now exceeds pre-pandemic levels of business.

That’s just one of the highlights from the World Travel & Tourism Council’s (WTTC) 2023 Economic Impact Research (EIR) report.

Globally, the travel and tourism industry is closing in on 2019 levels of economic activity, recovering by more than 95 percent, according to the just-released report.

In 2023 alone, travel and tourism industry is expected to reach $9.5 trillion, which is merely 5 percent below 2019 pre-pandemic levels when travel was at its highest.

Perhaps the most notable takeaway, the global tourism body is forecasting that the travel and tourism industry will grow its GDP contribution worldwide to reach a staggering $15.5 trillion by 2033.

Should that occur, the industry would represent 11.6 percent of the global economy. Additionally, it’s expected that travel and tourism will employ some 430 million people around the world by 2033, which would amount to about 12 percent of the planet’s working population.

A Year of Substantial Recovery

Despite the economic and geopolitical difficulties that dominated 2022, travel and tourism experienced significant post-pandemic recovery last year. Specifically, the industry grew 2 percent year-on-year to reach $7.7 trillion.

That figure represents 7.6 percent of the global economy in 2022, the highest sector contribution since 2019. With that said, the global GDP for the industry is still 22.9 percent behind its 2019 peak. In 2021, the travel and tourism industry grew 24.7 percent year-on-year.

Various global challenges and issues continue to impact the travel industry including the conflict in Ukraine and prolonged travel restrictions imposed by a number of countries, including China. The recent decision by the Chinese government to reopen its borders from January is expected to propel the sector and allow it to recover to pre-pandemic levels next year, said the report.

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Additional report highlights include:

  • From a pre-pandemic high of more than 334 million, the COVID-19 pandemic ravaged the 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 or 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 Travel & Tourism sector continues to recover at pace, demonstrating the resilience of the sector and the enduring desire to travel,” Julia Simpson, WTTC president and CEO, said 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.”