The global travel and tourism sectors are projected to return to pre-pandemic levels in 2023 and grow at a rate that will outpace global gross domestic product (GDP) growth, the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) said on Thursday.
The industry is expected to post an annual average growth rate of 5.8% from 2022 to 2032 versus the 2.7% increase in global GDP, and create 126 million new jobs, WTTC said in a report released during the industry group’s conference in Manila. In 2019, tourism accounted for a tenth of global GDP and jobs but the coronavirus pandemic decimated the $9.6 trillion industry, halving its output value and leaving 62 million people jobless.
“The recovery is going to be so stellar that it’s going to recover really powerfully. This does depend of course on China reopening,” said WTTC President Julia Simpson, calling on all governments to reopen borders. China’s “zero Covid” policy and persistent lockdowns have disrupted global trade and domestic and international travel.
The travel and tourism industry’s GDP is seen hitting $8.35 trillion this year and $9.6 trillion in 2023, a return to its pre-pandemic level. Tourism jobs are projected to recover to 300 million this year and 324 million in 2023, close to the 333 million seen in 2019, WTTC said. In Asia-Pacific alone, the hospitality industry’s GDP will likely hit $3.4 trillion in 2023, already above the $3.3 trillion it saw in 2019, it said.
Compared with North America and Europe, travel has trailed in Asia-Pacific because of strict border restrictions in many countries.
Revival in South Asia
Two years after tourism in Southeast Asia ground to a halt, travellers are getting back on planes as entry and Covid-19 quarantine rules are lifted in the region, but a full recovery will be slow and some long-time hotspots are falling out of favour.
International airline bookings to Southeast Asia reached 38% of pre-pandemic levels by late March, according to travel firm ForwardKeys. They were at less than 10% of 2019 levels at the start of the year.
Singapore and the Philippines led a sharp uptick in bookings. “We are the first to cut all the red tape,” said Philippines tourism minister Bernadette Romulo-Puyat. “Tourists are quite happy because upon arrival, they are free to go.”
These countries now require vaccinated travellers to only perform a rapid antigen test before arrival, whereas more complicated requirements in Thailand have knocked the former tourist favourite out of the top league.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 22nd, 2022.