Topic 1 Economic impact

Tourism has a huge impact on our economies. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council Report (2020), it accounted for 10.3 % of the global GDP in 2019 (direct, indirect and induced). The Travel & Tourism GDP growth amounted to 3.5% in 2019 whereas the overall economy growth reached 2.5%. Travel & Tourism GDP growth outpaced the overall economy GDP growth for the ninth consecutive year. It exceeded the growth of important sectors such as healthcare or construction.

Travel and tourism GDP growth compared to overall Global GDP in 2019




Information and communication


Financial services


Travel and Tourism




Retail and Wholesale








Tourism drives wealth, employment and regional development. The global international tourism receipts amounted to USD 1.4 trillion in 2018.Tourism generates a lot of employment opportunities, with 330 million of jobs worldwide (direct, indirect and induced). Tourism is a significant economic driver over the world.

For other detailed information, see UNWTO 2018 Report.  

Here is a scheme showing how large and complex the tourism industry is with numerous travel-related activities and a range of indirect value chains:

Source: UNWTO (2015).

Until the COVID crisis, tourism was an ever-growing sector with a consistently increasing number of travellers. During the last 20 years, international tourism has increased 4 times more than the world’s population. With 1.4 billion travelers in 2018, the international tourist arrivals are expected to reach 1.8 billion a year by 2030, according to the UNWTO predictions. The number of tourist arrivals has increased steadily by about 4.4% per year since 2009.

Source: Ecores (2021) based on World Bank Data.

There is a strong prominence of EU destination in terms of number of tourists:

Source: UNTWO, European Union Tourism Trends Report (2018).

Tourism is the third largest socio-economic activity in the EU (following the trade and distribution, and construction sectors).

Southern and Mediterranean Europe is the most visited group of countries with 193 million arrivals in 2016. The number of international tourists arrivals exceeds local population.

Source: UNTWO, European Union Tourism Trends Report (2018).