WTTC projects a record-breaking year for travel and tourism

The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) is projecting a record-breaking year for travel and tourism in 2024, with the sector’s global economic contribution set to reach an all-time high of $11.1 trillion.

According to the global tourism body’s 2024 Economic Impact Research (EIR), travel and tourism will contribute an additional $770BN over its previous record, stamping its authority as a global economic powerhouse, generating one in every 10 dollars worldwide.

As the global sector soars past its pre-pandemic prosperity, WTTC expects 142 countries of 185 analyzed will be outperforming previous national records. In partnership with Oxford Economic, WTTC’s latest EIR showcases a sector brimming with opportunities, underpinning almost 348MN jobs globally. This represents an increase of more than 13.6 million jobs compared to its highest point in 2019.

International visitor spending is expected to come within touching distance of the 2019 peak, to reach $1.89 trillion, while domestic tourists are forecast to spend more than in any year on record to hit $5.4 trillion.

Matching pre-pandemic numbers

Despite economic uncertainties and geopolitical shake-ups, the travel and tourism sector is thriving. With an economic injection of nearly $10 trillion, the sector matched its pre-pandemic zenith, flexing its resilience and proving its critical role in the global economy.

Representing 9.1 per cent of global GDP at just over $9.9 trillion in 2023, travel and tourism’s financial footprint was the largest it’s been since the golden year of travel in 2019, trailing its peak by a mere four per cent. The sector also bolstered its workforce by an additional 27.4MN, propelling the total to nearly 330 million jobs worldwide.

International spending increased by 33.1 per cent to reach $1.63 trillion, underscoring a vibrant comeback story for many countries around the world, with domestic spending increasing by more than 18 per cent to reach almost $5 trillion.

A record-breaking year

Last year (2023) set the stage, demonstrating the unwavering passion for travel, paving the way for a record-breaking year in 2024.

This growth comes despite two of the world’s biggest tourism markets lagging in terms of international visitor spend, with both the U.S. and China seeing a far slower return of international tourist spend. Last year in the U.S., international visitor spending remained more than a quarter below the peak of 2019, while China’s visitor spend remained almost 60 per cent down.

“Against the backdrop of uncertainty, the travel and tourism sector remains a global economic powerhouse,” said Julia Simpson, president and CEO, WTTC.  “This isn’t just about breaking records, we’re no longer talker about a recovery – this is a story of the sector back at its best after a difficult few years, providing a significant economic boost to countries around the world and supporting millions of jobs.

“There’s a risk however, we need the U.S. and Chinese governments to support their national Travel & Tourism sectors. The U.S. and China will continue to suffer whilst other countries are seeing international visitors return much faster.”

Predictions for the next decade

Looking ahead, WTTC is forecasting a promising future for the next decade, characterized by robust growth and unparalleled career opportunities. By 2034, the sector will supercharge the global economy with a staggering $16 trillion, making up 11.4 per cent of the entire economic landscape.

This booming industry is also set to be a job creation juggernaut, providing employment for 449MN people worldwide. Nearly 12.2 per cent of the workforce will be powering this vibrant sector, showcasing travel and tourism’s pivotal role in global employment.