The global tourism industry is among the world’s most important economic sectors. Its growth skyrocketed, especially after the adoption of the Statutes of the World Tourism on September 27, 1976. This was such a huge milestone that we now celebrate this date as World Tourism Day each year.
From the 1980s onwards, global tourism increased rapidly and significantly. The number of international arrivals shot up from 277 million to nearly 1,5 billion in 2019, transforming social, cultural, political, and economic landscapes worldwide. Not even the 2003 SARS epidemic nor the 2008 global financial crisis could hold back this booming industry.
But then the Covid-19 pandemic hit.
The Covid-19 pandemic humbled many thriving industries, including aviation, catering, hotels, energy, and automobile industries. For the first time, the tourism sector also caved in.
But as the dust settles, global tourism needs to make a strong comeback. Hence the theme for this year’s celebration: Rethinking tourism.
The Importance of the Tourism Sector (2022)
The global tourism industry is an important one, sustaining hundreds of millions of livelihoods worldwide. World tourism day helps raise awareness of the vital role of tourism and its influence over social, cultural, political, and economic values all over the world. After the severe reverberations of the Covid-19 pandemic, restarting tourism will help kickstart global recovery and growth.
So why is the tourism industry so formidable? The facts speak for themselves:
- The overall contribution of travel and tourism to the global GDP was 5.812 billion US dollars in 2021.
- In other words, the travel and tourism sector had a share of 6,1% of the global GDP in 2021. This is almost 1,5✕ the share of the entire global agricultural sector combined.
- In 2021, the number of jobs in the travel and tourism sector worldwide was 289 million. This includes jobs in transport, accommodation, travel companies, food and drink services, and countless other industries.
- Moreover, by 2029, this number is expected to increase to 421 million. That’s nearly half a billion people who depend on the tourism sector for their livelihood.
- People traveling for business (business tourism) spent 754 billion US dollars in 2021.
The tourism sector helps sustain livelihoods all over the world, particularly in far-flung destinations. Moreover, the sector also provides countries opportunities for economic growth and social reform.
Suffice it to say that the tourism industry makes the world go round.
Impact of Covid-19 on The Tourism Sector
The Covid-19 pandemic proved that even the most resilient sectors and industries could fall from grace. Indeed, the tourism sector has taken many hits in the wake of the global health crisis and the many ensuing crisis after that.
- The overall contribution of travel and tourism decreased from 9.630 billion US dollars in 2019 (pre-pandemic) to 4.775 billion US dollars in 2020. This denotes a sharp drop of 4.855 billion US dollars.
- In other words, the tourism sector’s contribution to the global GDP dropped by over 50% in a single year. It went from 10,3% in 2019 to 5,3% in 2020.
- Before the pandemic hit, the tourism sector employed 333 million people worldwide. Over the course of a year, that number dropped by 19% to 271 million, leaving nearly 62 million people out of jobs. China, India, the United States, Indonesia, Thailand, Brazil, and Mexico were the countries that took the largest hit in tourism employment after the pandemic.
- At the same time, people traveling for business went from spending approximately 1,4 trillion US dollars in 2019 (the peak expenditure value in decades) to less than half of that in 2020.
The Covid-19 pandemic brought the entire world to a standstill, and the prospects for travel and tourism were looking bleak. Nation-wide lockdowns and international travel bans meant touring the world was no longer an option.
Additionally, work-from-home settings meant people stopped traveling so much for business. In fact, the expenditure made by business travelers worldwide plummeted to the lowest figure reported since 2005.
Why Do We Need to Rethink Tourism in 2022?
You now understand tourism is so significant that it has an entire day dedicated to its celebration.
But this world tourism day (2022) is special; it must reorient the direction of the tourism sector and redefine its place in a post-pandemic world. Hence, the theme for this world tourism day is “rethinking tourism.”
But in addition to the lessons the pandemic has taught us, why is there a need to rethink tourism? There are many things to consider.
- The tourism sector has witnessed uncontrolled and exponential growth. The number of international tourist arrivals skyrocketed from 166 million in 1970 to a projected 1,8 billion by 2030.
- At the same time, the carbon footprint of global tourism has increased from 982 million metric tons to an expected 1.998 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions by 2030.
- The transport-related emissions from tourism are projected to account for 5,3% of all human-made carbon dioxide emissions by 2030.
Given the trajectory of the tourism sector so far, this level of growth is simply unsustainable. Not only that, but the Covid-19 pandemic has revealed just how non-inclusive the tourism industry can be. People can no longer safely and easily access tourism as they once could. Moreover, tourism continues to burden and over-consume the resources of many popular destination countries. Thus, reform is long overdue for the tourism sector.
Where is the tourism industry headed in 2022?
Looking ahead, the tourism sector hopes to bring everyone together around a shared vision for “a more sustainable, inclusive, and resilient sector.”
The ecotourism industry worldwide was estimated at 181,1 billion US dollars in 2019. The sector was forecast to reach 333,8 billion US dollars in 2027
After a substantial setback, the tourism sector is well on its way to recovery. Following a severe dip in total GDP contributions, the global tourism industry recovered and increased by 1.037 billion US dollars.
Moreover, more and more people are realizing the need for sustainable and green tourism. As of 2019, 71% of global travelers agree that travel companies should offer more sustainable travel choices. By 2027, the ecotourism industry is forecast to reach 333,8 billion US dollars.
Following suffering severe repercussions due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the tourism sector is making a strong comeback. Only this time, the tourism sector is working to redefine itself. The future of tourism is sustainability, inclusivity, and resilience.