USA remains the world’s largest travel and tourism economy, a global industry that now contributes USD8.8 trillion to the world economy

The United States of America (USA) retained its status as the world’s largest travel and tourism economy last year despite a standstill in international visitors from China, according to new research released by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC).


Summary:

  • USA remains the world’s largest travel and tourism economy as sector contributes almost USD1.6 trillion to GDP growing by 2.2% (accounting for inflation) last year;
  • Trade tensions between the US and China have influenced travel demand between the two countries with flat year-on-year growth in 2018;
  • WTTC research shows the global travel and tourism sector grew 3.9% to contribute a record USD8.8 trillion and 319 million jobs to the world economy in 2018.

The research shows that its travel and tourism sector contributed almost USD1.6 trillion to GDP. This translates to 7.8% of US GDP with the sector growing by 2.2% (accounting for inflation) last year. The direct, indirect, and induced impact of travel and tourism accounted for 15.6 million jobs and USD198.8 billion in spending by international visitors (a 0.9% annual decrease).

However, it is clear that trade tensions between the US and China have influenced travel demand between the two countries. After recording ten years of stellar growth, international visitor numbers from China were flat year-on-year falling from an average annual growth of 23% over the previous decade. International visitors from China account for 4% of total US visitors but 11% of all spending, demonstrating their economic importance to the country.

“Given the economic importance of Chinese visitors, any thawing in the trade relations between the two countries would have a positive effect for the wider US economy,” says Gloria Guevara, president and CEO, WTTC.

The WTTC research into the economic impact and social importance of the sector shows that the global travel and tourism sector grew at 3.9% to contribute a record USD8.8 trillion and 319 million jobs to the world economy in 2018. For the eighth consecutive year, this was above the growth rate of world GDP, generating 10.4% of all global economic activity and contributing 319 million jobs, representing one in ten of all jobs globally. In fact the sector is responsible for one in five of all new jobs created in the world over the last five years, according to the report.

The WTTC findings highlight that travel and tourism is the second-fastest growing sector in the world, ahead of Healthcare (+3.1%); Information Technology (+1.7%) and Financial Services (+1.7%) and behind only Manufacturing, which grew by 4%. It also shows a slight growth in leisure and reduction in business spending year-on-year (78.5/21.5 for 2018 versus 77.5/22.5 for 2017). Domestic tourists continue to dominate and account for more than 71% of spending, but the international share is on the rise, increasing from 27.3% in 2017 to 28.8% in 2018.

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