WTTC sees 2023 tourism year closing only 5% under 2019 peak

The World Travel & Tourism Council’s (WTTC) 2023 Economic Impact Research (EIR) predicts that the travel and tourism sector should be close to its 2019 record by year end

The WTTC Economic Impact Research released its 2023 forecasts and they are very optimistic. According to the WTTC experts, the travel and tourism sector is forecast to reach US $9.5 trillion, just 5% below 2019 pre-pandemic levels when travel was at its highest. The WTTC indicates that 34 countries have already exceeded 2019 levels. 

According to the research conducted by the WTTC in collaboration with Oxford Economics, the global tourism body also forecasts that the sector will recover to 95% of the 2019 job level.  

2022 showed further recovery from 2020/2021 slump

Last year, despite the economic and geopolitical difficulties, the WTTC indicates that tourism sector continued its strong recovery, bouncing by 22% to reach US $7.7TN.  This recovery represented 7.6% of the global economy in 2022, the highest sector contribution since 2019, although its global GDP is still 22.9% behind its 2019 peak. Back to 2021, the global sector already grew 24.7% year-on-year.

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 impact on the global recovery. But the recent decision by the Chinese government to reopen its borders from January will propel the sector and see it recover to pre-pandemic levels next year. 

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% of full recovery.

Employment strong rebound

Most important is the recovery of employment in the tourism sector. The WTTC saw a drop of over 70 million in employment, from a pre-pandemic high of more than 334 million to just 264 million in 2020. In 2022, total employment was nearing the 300-million mark. In 2022, the sector created again 21.6 million. This represents one in 11 jobs worldwide. 

Spending from overseas visitors grew by a record 82% to reach $1.1 trillion in 2022, showing that international travel is firmly back on track.  

Julia Simpson, WTTC President & CEO, said: “The Travel & 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. Travel & Tourism will be a growth sector over the next ten years.”

How would 2033 look like?

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

The latest EIR also reveals that 34 of the 185 countries analysed in the EIR have now recovered to pre-pandemic levels in terms of GDP contribution.  

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