World tourism and travel is almost back to pre-pandemic levels, and 2024 should see travel numbers surpassing 2019 levels. However, the industry labour force isn't recovering at the same pace as traffic and spend.
The World Travel & Tourism Council’s Economic Impact Research report shows the Travel & Tourism sector has reached more than 95 per cent of its 2019 peak.
“The Travel & Tourism sector continues to recover at pace, demonstrating the resilience of the sector and the enduring desire to travel," said Julia Simpson, WTTC President & CEO. “By the end of the year, the sector’s contribution will be within touching distance of the 2019 peak. We expect 2024 to exceed 2019. Travel & Tourism will be a growth sector over the next ten years."
In 2023, the sector is forecast to reach $9.5 trillion (USD) in spending, just five per cent below 2019 pre-pandemic levels, when travel was at its highest. Thirty four countries around the world have already exceeded 2019 levels.
In 2021 the global sector grew 24.7 per cent year-on-year, and last year it grew a further 22 per cent to reach a GDP contribution of $7.7 trillion.
The research shows that the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and prolonged travel restrictions imposed by a number of countries such as China had a significant impact on the global recovery. But the recent decision by the Chinese government to reopen its borders earlier this year will propel the sector and see it recover to pre-pandemic levels next year, it predicts.
The travel and tourism labour force is still far from recovered, however. From a pre-pandemic high of more than 334 million jobs, the COVID-19 pandemic ravaged employment in the sector, and worldwide tourism and travel jobs dropped to 264 million. Following the recovery of 11 million jobs in 2021, the sector created 21.6 million new jobs in 2022 to reach more than 295 million globally.
That's one in 11 jobs worldwide. But that's still about 40 million jobs fewer than pre-pandemic, representing only 88 per cent recovery - 7 per cent less than the recovery in travel spend.