Travel News

Why Travel & Tourism Matters to the US and Global Economies

As the U.S. and world economy are continuing the long, slow road toward recovery, it’s important to remember the impact of the travel. Travel is not just investment in resorts and vacations, it’s investment in transportation, infrastructure and development.

According to David Scowsill, President and CEO of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), travel accounts of 1 out of every 11 jobs on the planet. In the U.S., 1 out of 8: U.S. jobs depend on travel and tourism.

At the opening of the WTTC Asia Summit on Tuesday September 10, Scowsill noted that the direct and indirect impact of travel will contribute $6.8 trillion (USD) to the global GDP by the end of 2013.

Travel is Growing Around the World

Scowsill forecasts significant growth for the travel industry. He noted:

The [travel] industry will continue to expand on average by 4.4 percent  per annum to 2023, outpacing growth in the wider economy, and growing faster than manufacturing, retail and financial services.

Travel Great Six Times Faster Than Other U.S. Exports

The U.S. Travel Association also released key data that underscored the importance of travel for the U.S. economy. According to the USTA, travel remains the U.S. economy’s leading export and increased by 8.9 percent during the first seven of months of 2013, compared to the same period in 2012. That’s six times faster than other U.S. exports of goods and services so far this year, which grew 1.5 percent.

The travel industry has made a 32 percent increase. With travel exports growing more than 2.9 percent in imports, the travel trade surplus this year is operating 25 percent higher than last year.

Travel has surpassed both agriculture and manufacturing exports, welcoming travelers from around the world to the U.S. This economic push is the primary reason why the travel industry has added more jobs than other parts of the economy in the last three years.

Growth in Asia Outpaces the World

WTTC forecasts indicate that in the next decade, the travel and  tourism industry will expand by more than 6 percent a year in Asia. It is projected to have the fastest growth of any other region in the world.

Looking forward, Scowsill anticipates:

Out of the 70 million new jobs which travel and tourism will stimulate globally by 2023, two thirds of those additional jobs – some 47 million –  will be in Asia.

The growth in Asia will mostly be centered on China. WTTC forecasts that China will overtake the United States economy by  2023 to become the world’s largest travel & tourism economy.

According to Scowsill;

This is a colossal shift for our industry, a huge sea-change in consumer demand, one which will transform the way we do business.

U.S. Travel Export is Declining as a Whole

Although travel is outpacing other U.S. exports, David Huether, Senior Vice President of Research and Economics from the USTA,  noted the trade deficit has deteriorated by $4.6 billion in 2013 to $39.1 billion.

After having five months of growth, travel exports dropped in July from $96 million to $14.8 billion. The decline was due to a drop in overall U.S. exports of goods and services.

In order to slow the decline, the USTA is urging policymakers to support proposals like the JOLT Act, a jobs and economic growth bill that is expected to increase spending internationally in the United States. The proposed act will also allow visa-free entry for travelers from allied countries. It will enable shorter visa wait times in addition to an expansion of the Global Entry Program.

By Leah Ford and Lily J. Kosner for