As of October 2017, 1.1 billion tourists visited international destinations around the world. This amounts to an astounding 7% increase over the same period in 2016, or 70 million more international tourist arrivals according to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation’s (UNWTO) Tourism Barometer. This extraordinary growth puts the global hospitality & tourism industry well ahead of the world economy’s 3.7% growth.
Leading the way were the countries of Mediterranean Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East, who collectively saw 13% growth in 2017. On the domestic front, Spain witnessed another impressive year with 11.5% more international tourist arrivals compared to the same period in 2016, well ahead of the country’s sluggish GDP growth of 2.5%.
Across the world, Africa reported growth of international tourist arrivals that amounted to an increase of 8% year on year, Asia and the Pacific witnessed a 5% increase, South America, 8%. Despite a year marked by continuous interruptions from hurricanes, the Caribbean experienced 4% growth and the US and Canada each underwent 9% growth in international tourist arrivals.
Global Economic Impact
Ten years after the global financial crisis, the world economy’s recovery has struggled to regain its footing. However, due in large part to sustained growth in global travel, the 2018 outlook gives reason to be optimistic. According to a recently published travel forecast from Skift: “the International Monetary Fund (IMF) recently raised its forecast for 2018 with more growth expected in emerging and developing markets, where income levels are rising, technology adoption is increasing, infrastructure and accessibility are improving, businesses are seeking more international collaboration, and economies are shifting to be more services-based”. Needless to say, the travel and tourism industry is one of the main drivers in this growth and is poised to continued thanks to its commitment to sustainable business and social models in both established and emerging markets.
Human Capital & Talent Development
To put the travel and tourism industry’s importance into perspective, let’s consider that it accounts for approximately 10% of the world’s GDP, makes up 1 in 10 private sector jobs created worldwide, comprises 30% of world trade in services and comprises and generates $1.4 trillion in exports. According to the UNWTO, this is due to increased globalization, social connectivity, and affordable international and domestic air travel.
Travel & Tourism is expected to contribute around 23% of total global net job creation over the next decade, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council. The industry currently supports approximately 292 million jobs worldwide and by 2027 this is expected to increase to 380 million, or 1 in 9 jobs globally. Professional opportunities will be most notable in areas that tap into the Millenials sector, innovation in digital marketing and branding, sustainable management and operations systems, and a resurgence in offline sales that place importance on soft skills and direct contact with customers. Training, education, and talent development will be crucial factors to ensure the global travel & tourism industry is prepared to address this growth sustainably through the long term.
Sustainability & Regeneration
Last year was declared the year of Sustainable Tourism by the UNWTO and for good reason. Sustainability concerns are at the forefront of the travel & tourism industry as the world’s population continues to grow and resources become more and more scarce. The need for sustainable business practices permeates all layers of a nation’s economy and when strategies are developed responsibly, the benefits are reaped by both the world’s people and the environment. Sustainability will no longer be an afterthought or a tactic to reduce costs and increase earnings. Instead, it is set to become a crucial element needed in order to ensure survival and success of businesses covering every facet of the industry.
In this new context, the term sustainability will give way to regenerative and restorative practices that steer away from policies that do the least harm and instead focus on those that do the most good. To achieve this, companies will need professionals with education in sustainable practices that include both operations and the manner in which they interact with their customers and the community at large. To ensure their success under a sustainable model, they will need to garner the power of technology as a unifying tool. Additionally, on both a local and international level, the travel & tourism industry will be compelled to redefine growth.
Instead of measuring growth and performance based on traditional concerns like occupancy rates, hotels and other hospitality-related businesses will have to ask themselves if these measurements reflect the wellbeing of their employees and the community it affects. In short, the industry’s long-term success will be determined by its ability to positively impact both the environment and people. There are many challenges to overcome before reaching this point, but the industry and its dedicated professionals make for an optimistic outlook as we venture into this exciting year.