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WTTC Report Reveals World’s Biggest Travel & Tourism Market

The United States remains the world’s biggest and most powerful travel and tourism market, according to the latest Economic Trends Report by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC).

According to the report, the top ranking of the US was reaffirmed, despite suffering long and damaging travel restrictions which did little to halt the spread of Covid-19 and only resulted in serious economic losses.

However, while its number one position was retained, the US Travel & Tourism sector’s contribution to the nation’s economy fell by US$700 billion in 2019, to just under US$1.3 trillion last year.

Research by Oxford Economics for WTTC shows there has been no change in the top three countries – with China second and Germany third.

Domestic travel boosted numbers

“But the rankings are illusionary as the top economies bolstered their numbers through domestic travel, while international visitor numbers plummeted,” the WTTC said.

In the US, international traveller spend rankings toppled from its pre-pandemic top position.

UK sees biggest drop in the global rankings
China and Germany hold onto second and third position

WTTC’s data reveals that in terms of the Travel & Tourism sector’s contribution to GDP, China held onto its second position, with more than US$814 billion, while Germany remained the third biggest Travel & Tourism sector in the world, contributing US$251 billion to the German economy.

The UK slipped dramatically from fifth place in 2019 to ninth in 2021, with a contribution of just over US$157 billion, the biggest faller of the top 10 countries.

In terms of international traveller spend, France, which before the pandemic struck was in fourth place, overtook Spain, China, and the U.S. to grab first place.

China, which remains closed to much of the rest of the world, was in second place before the pandemic, but fell dramatically to 11th position in 2021.

Across Asia Pacific, major Travel & Tourism markets such as Thailand and Japan saw huge losses in international spending, which resulted in both markets – in fifth and eighth place respectively before the pandemic – falling out of the top 20 altogether in 2021.

China could become biggest travel market

WTTC predicts by 2032, China could overtake the U.S. to become the world’s biggest Travel & Tourism market.

The research shows China’s Travel & Tourism sector’s contribution to GDP could reach US$3.9 trillion by 2032, making it the world’s most powerful Travel & Tourism market, and India could leapfrog Germany to reach third place with a projected value of US$457 billion.

Business travel set to recover

But despite the challenges of the past two years, the WTTC’s new report shows business travel is on the road to recovery.

According to the global tourism body’s predictions, worldwide business travel is expected to grow more than 41 percent this year. For the next 10 years it predicts business travel could grow an average of 5.5 percent annually and may return faster in the Asia-Pacific region.

Photo source: WTTC

“Our report shows the resilience of the Travel & Tourism sector, despite the impact of travel restrictions around the world which failed to halt the spread of the virus,” WTTC President & CEO Julia Simpson said, adding that despite a “challenging macro environment”, Travel & Tourism has bounced back.

“The world, with some exceptions, is travelling again. And we are seeing a resurgence in business travel. Over the next 10 years, Travel & Tourism growth will outstrip the global economy,” Simpson added.

To read the WTTC’s report in full, click here.

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