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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 lodging, 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 4.7 trillion U.S. dollars in 2020. When looking at countries that directly contributed the most to global GDP the United States’ travel and tourism industry contributed the largest sum at 1.1 trillion U.S. dollars in 2020. Meanwhile, in a ranking of the countries with the highest share of GDP from travel and tourism the city and special administrative region of Macau generated the highest share of GDP through direct travel and tourism of any economy worldwide. The tourism industry was severely impacted by the global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that began in early 2020.

The growth of global travel

Traveling both internationally and domestically has become increasingly common all over the world. As a result, both leisure travel spending and business travel spending saw year-over-year growth in the five years prior to COVID-19. This increase in travel before the health crisis also allowed the number of hotel guests and in turn the hotel industry's market size to grow. Key performance indicators such as RevPAR (revenue per available room), ADR (average daily rate), and occupancy have seen year-over-year growth over the past decade due to an influx of tourists across the globe. Meanwhile, another industry that has profited from people’s penchant for travel is the airline industry - with the revenue of the global commercial airline industry reaching 472 billion U.S. dollars in 2021 after a decline during the COVID-19 pandemic.

What are the most popular tourist destinations worldwide?

Once tourists arrive at their travel destination, they can choose from a plethora of sightseeing options and attractions. One famous landmark that keeps seeing record visitation figures is the Louvre in Paris, with attendance reaching 2.7 million in 2020, down from 9.6 million the previous year. This made it one of the most visited museums in the world. The French capital is well-known for its museums, having come top in a ranking of cities with the most number of museums worldwide. However, it also drew a significant number of visitors to the gates of one of its most family-friendly attractions - Disneyland Park, Paris. That being said, when compared to the other most visited amusement and theme parks worldwide, attendance at Disneyland Park was less than half of that of its fellow Disney theme park, Magic Kingdom (Walt Disney World) in the U.S. Thanks to these and other sights, France remains top of this list of leading destinations for international tourist arrivals.

Digitization 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 6.8 billion and 5.2 billion U.S. dollars in 2020. However, these figures marked an almost 50 percent drop in revenue over the previous year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

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 travel and green travel choices. One way to put this into practice is by staying in eco-friendly or green accommodations – a concept that has 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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