In 2017 the travel & tourism industry continues to make a real difference to the lives of millions of people by driving growth, creating jobs, reducing poverty and fostering development and tolerance. For the sixth consecutive year the travel industry’s growth outperformed that of the global economy, showcasing the industry’s resilience in the face of global geopolitical uncertainty and economic volatility. The industry contributed US$7.6 trillion to the global economy (10.2% of global GDP) and generated 292 million jobs (1 in 10 jobs on the planet) in 2016. International arrivals followed suit, reaching 1.2 billion in 2016, 46 million more than in 2015 and this promising trend is only expected to continue increasing in the coming decade. This is why travel matters.
With a forecasted 1.8 billion international tourists by 2030, the industry has the potential to play a key role in creating high-quality employment opportunities, act as a vehicle to protect and restore our planet’s biodiversity and help build bridges between people and cultures.
Research shows that for every 30 new tourists to a destination one new job is created; and already today, the travel and tourism industry has almost twice as many women employers as other sectors. Accounting for 30% of world services exports, and the largest export category in many developing countries, the industry is a tremendous employment generator. Yet research suggests that the industry’s potential could be hindered—and 14 million jobs could be at risk—if governments and the private sector do not address the talent shortage in the industry. If properly managed, the T&T sector can continue to be a contributor to inclusive growth, given the relatively low barriers required to provide services and start a business related to tourism.
The sector is also making large strides toward a larger focus on environmental sustainability. Since the 1980s, air traffic has doubled every 15 years—a trend that is expected to continue. In 2016, nearly 4 billion people travelled by plane, a number expected to reach 7.2 billion by 2035. As such, resource efficiency, environmental protection and climate change are central to the industry’s agenda and part of its triple bottom line. Further, sustainability has accelerated as a policy issue in the past decade as the planet remains under threat of existential climate change—and industry leaders have followed suit to set ambitious targets. They aim to move beyond carbon-neutral growth and, by 2050, halve net CO2 emissions compared to the 2005 baseline. At the same time revenue generated through tourism is both an important incentive and a source of funding to protect the natural environment.
For all of these economic reasons travel matters. Of course for our personal growth, opening our minds and relaxing travel matters as well. In fact there are about 7 billion reasons, one for every person on this planet, why travel matters.