WTTC downgrades global tourism growth estimates

The global travel and tourism industry will grow more slowly in 2011 and 2012 than previously indicated, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC).

WTTC’s annual research, published in March 2011, forecast growth of 4.5 per cent and 5.1 per cent in 2011 and 2012 respectively.

Following the deterioration in global financial conditions in the second half of 2011, the continuing eurozone debt crisis, and the threat of a return to recession in the United States, the growth forecasts for 2011 and 2012 have been downgraded to 3.2 per cent and 3.3 per cent respectively.

The numbers measure direct contribution to GDP.

Long-term prospects remain strong, as WTTC predicts ten-year growth holding steady at around four per cent per year between 2011 and 2021.

This is down marginally from the annual growth of 4.3 per cent forecast in March 2011, with the reduction due almost entirely to the downward revisions to growth in 2011 and 2012. 

The latest economic data points to a slowdown in economic activity in the spring and summer of 2011.

GDP growth in the USA is down from over three per cent in the fourth quarter of 2010 to around 1.5 per cent in the second quarter of 2011, with similar levels in the eurozone and growth as low as 0.5 per cent in the UK in Q2 2011.

Nevertheless, latest travel and tourism indicators show that people are still travelling – with international air travel and hotel occupancy rates up.

However, while travel and tourism data for the first half of 2011 has been largely positive, continued concerns around the state of the economy – particularly in the USA and Europe – mean that confidence levels are low.

As the global economic recovery loses momentum and impacts industry performance, the outlook for travel and tourism will be weaker in the second half of the 2011 than it was in the first six months.

The latest WTTC research indicates:

  • Global travel and tourism is expected to grow by an average four per cent per year between 2011 and 2021. This is down marginally from the 4.3 per cent for the same period that was forecast earlier in the year, with the decline due almost exclusively to the downward revisions in 2011 and 2012

  • Travel and tourism is predicted to account for 69 million more jobs by 2021 – almost 80% of which will be in Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and Africa.

    David Scowsill, WTTC president, said: “Travel and tourism is one of the world’s great industries, providing nine per cent of global GDP and 260 million jobs; it drives economic growth, business relationships and social mobility.

    “The industry is still growing strongly – but growth is lower than we had previously expected for both 2011 and 2012 due to the prevailing economic conditions and the disruption to travel patterns caused by natural disasters and social upheaval during 2011.

    “That said, growth of 3.2 per cent during 2011 would still be a laudable achievement and would rank the Travel & Tourism industry ahead of world GDP growth, expected to be 2.8 per cent, and most developed countries.

    “The two big themes of 2012 are likely to be the rebound in tourism in the Middle East following the social upheaval of 2011 and the recovery of Japan, the world’s third largest travel and tourism economy, following the earthquake and tsunami.

    “Our latest report on Japan indicates that the recovery is occurring in line with our most optimistic scenario which states that the number of international tourist arrivals will recover by early 2012, along with a faster recovery in Japan’s own travel and tourism demand.

    “It is fitting that our 12th Global Summit will bring the world’s travel and tourism leaders to Tokyo and Sendai in April next year.

    “In the long term the prospects for our industry are good and we maintain our ten year growth rate above four per cent.

    “Travel and tourism is predicted to account for 69 million more jobs by 2021, stimulating employment across the world, encouraging export-led growth of economies, and reducing poverty in developing economies.”