The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) has unveiled its 2023 Economic Impact Research (EIR), projecting a remarkable resurgence in the UK’s Travel & Tourism sector. According to the report, this sector is poised to surpass its 2019 pre-pandemic peak, making a substantial contribution to the UK economy.
WTTC’s research indicates that the UK Travel & Tourism sector is expected to contribute an impressive £252.4 billion to the UK economy this year, surpassing the 2019 figure of £248.5 billion. Additionally, it foresees the creation of nearly 380,000 jobs within the sector, an almost complete recovery from the job losses incurred during the COVID-19 pandemic, bringing the total workforce to over 4 million. This means that approximately one in nine workers in the UK will be employed in the Travel & Tourism sector.
The report also highlights the resurgence of international visitor spending in the UK, which is projected to reach £26.18 billion, a figure only 6% behind the 2019 peak of £38.6 billion.
Reflecting on the Previous Year
In the preceding year, the Travel & Tourism sector witnessed a significant uptick in its contribution to the GDP, increasing by 65% to exceed £237 billion, constituting 9.5% of the country’s economy. This figure is steadily approaching the 2019 high of 9.9%.
Moreover, the sector added 1.1 million jobs in the past year, bringing the total national workforce to 3.6 million, equivalent to one in ten jobs across the UK. Notably, the sector has now recuperated 1.5 million of the 1.7 million jobs lost during the pandemic.
International visitors returned to the UK in substantial numbers, with overseas visitor spending growing by over 300% from 2021 to reach nearly £30 billion. Domestic visitor spending fully rebounded in 2022, matching the pre-pandemic high of £165 billion. This underscores the enduring popularity of domestic vacations in the UK.
Julia Simpson, President & CEO of WTTC, emphasized the significance of the Travel & Tourism sector, stating, “Travel & Tourism creates one in every ten jobs in the UK and contributes over £250 billion a year to the UK economy.” She further urged the UK government to aim higher, expressing concerns about the impact of the removal of VAT-free shopping for international tourists on the sector’s recovery and long-term growth.
What Lies Ahead for the Next Decade?
WTTC envisions robust growth for the Travel & Tourism sector, forecasting a GDP contribution of nearly £315 billion by 2033, equating to nearly 11% of the UK economy. It anticipates employment opportunities for over 5 million people across the country, with one in seven Britons working in the sector.
In 2022, the European Travel & Tourism sector contributed €1.9 trillion to the regional economy, trailing just 7% below the 2019 peak. WTTC anticipates that the sector’s GDP contribution in the region will exceed €2 trillion in 2023, inching closer to the 2019 high.
The sector employed nearly 35 million people across Europe in 2022, marking an increase of 2.9 million from the previous year, yet still falling short by 3.2 million compared to pre-pandemic levels. WTTC predicts a complete recovery of the jobs lost during the pandemic by the end of 2024.
This resurgence in the Travel & Tourism sector bodes well for the UK and Europe, promising economic vitality and a substantial job market in the years to come.