Global tourism industry - statistics & facts

It is difficult to define the tourism industry, as unlike with other industries, there is not one clear product. It incorporates many industries, including accommodation, transport, attractions, travel companies, and more. In its broadest sense, tourism is defined as when people travel and stay in places outside of their usual environment for less than one consecutive year for leisure, business, health, or other reasons. Globally, travel and tourism's direct contribution to GDP was approximately 5.8 billion U.S. dollars in 2021. Considering how profitable the industry is, many countries have an incentive to invest in policies that enable the development of travel and tourism. In 2021, the leading countries and territories in the travel and tourism development index (TTDI) were Japan, the United States, and Spain, receiving a score of 5.2 points each out of seven. Although travel and tourism contribute significantly to the global GDP, both were severely impacted by the global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that began in early 2020.

What are the most popular tourist destinations worldwide?

Many tourists select their travel destinations based on sightseeing options and cultural attractions. As of June 2021, the leading city ranked by number of cultural attractions worldwide was Tokyo, Japan with a total of 8,805 attractions open to the public. Paris and London followed behind Tokyo with 4,206 and 3,704 attractions, respectively. For many countries around the world, Museums are some of the most enticing cultural attractions. According to UNESCO, the United States was the country with the highest number of museums worldwide, with approximately 33,082 institutions as of March 2021. The most visited museum in the world, however, was the Louvre in Paris. In 2020, the museum recorded approximately 2.7 million visitors, down from 9.6 million the previous year. Overall, the current estimated total number of museums worldwide is nearly 104 thousand.

Digitalization of the global tourism industry

It has become increasingly common for travelers to book their own trips, however, there are still those who use travel agencies to do so. With the developing digitalization of the travel industry, many consumers turn to online travel agencies to book their trips. Some of the leading travel companies in the online travel market are Booking Holdings and the Expedia Group. When looking at the revenue of leading online travel agencies (OTA's) worldwide, these two companies came in respective first and second place with revenues of 10.95 billion and 8.59 billion U.S. dollars in 2021. These figures rose in 2021 over the previous year, after dropping sharply in 2020 due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Despite the substantial increase, however, the revenues of Booking Holdings and Expedia Group did not catch up with pre-pandemic levels.

How important is sustainable tourism?

One major trend that travel agencies and the tourism industry will have to adapt to in the future is the increasing global interest in environmentally friendly travel. In a 2019 United Nations report "Transport Related CO2 Emissions of the Tourism Sector" tourism was shown to be a significant contributor to climate change. Nowadays, a growing number of tourists have begun recognizing the negative impact their trips can have on affected regions. As a result, more and more global travelers believe in the importance of sustainable tourism and green choices. According to a survey conducted in March 2021, 83 percent of travelers worldwide believed that sustainable travel was important. During that same month, another survey determined that 81 percent of travelers worldwide intended to stay at least once in an eco-friendly or green accommodation when looking at the year ahead. Such eco-friendly or green accommodations have helped companies like Airbnb become more popular.

The impact of COVID-19 on global tourism

Another factor that has significantly impacted the global tourism industry is the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. As countries implemented severe travel restrictions to curb the spread of the disease, national and international tourism came to a drastic halt. It was estimated that the global revenue of the travel and tourism industry dropped by 42 percent in 2020. When looking at a breakdown of tourism revenue by country, the U.S. experienced the greatest decrease in revenue, while the Asia Pacific region showed the largest drop in international tourist arrivals worldwide due to COVID-19. While the long-term economic damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic cannot fully be assessed yet, the standstill of public life has affected not only tourism but also industries connected to tourism, for example, global restaurant visitation, theater performances, and events.


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