Air travel provides vital links for the burgeoning global tourism industry. It is estimated that over half (58%) of all international tourists travel by air, so the aviation and tourism industries depend on each other for sustainable growth.
The tourism sector
Tourism makes a major contribution to the global economy. It supports 319 million jobs and contributes $8.8 trillion to world GDP (10.4% of the global economy). By 2029, the World Travel & Tourism Council expects tourism to provide 421 million jobs globally.
Aviation's crucial tourism role
Tourism is essential to economic development strategies in many developing countries, particularly in remote regions far away from their source tourism markets that rely on a steady inflow of tourists. Without the influx of tourists, their economies would decline significantly.
In Africa, an estimated 7.7 million people are employed as a result of the continuous arrival of overseas visitors, most of whom arrive by air. In 2018, these workers contributed $44 billion to GDP in African economies. In some Caribbean countries, tourism provides one of the few means of economic growth.
Aviation’s contribution to tourism employment and GDP is significant:
- Direct: It is estimated that globally 19.6 million jobs in tourism are supported by spending of foreign visitors arriving by air. This includes jobs in industries such as hotels, restaurants, visitor attractions, local transport and car rental, but excludes air transport industry jobs.
- Indirect: A further 16.4 million jobs in industries supplying the tourism industry are supported by visitors arriving by air.
- Induced: These direct and indirect tourism jobs supported by air transport generate a further seven million jobs in other parts of the economy, through employees spending their earnings on goods and services.
Including direct, indirect, and induced effects, air transport supports over 44.8 million jobs within tourism, contributing around $1 trillion a year to world GDP.
Tourism plays a major role in supporting sustainable economic growth. Responsible and sustainable tourism provides important service sector jobs, while preserving and appreciating the earth’s natural resources, rather than depleting them. However, there needs to be a focus by both tourism operators and governments to ensure environmental and social impact is considered, as well as the economic benefits.
There are some great examples of economies taking a proactive strategic, holistic, and sustainable view of tourism development, such as New Zealand, Costa Rica, Iceland, and Bhutan. The World Travel & Tourism Council sets out some key principles for responsible sustainable development in ‘tourism for tomorrow’:
- Impacts natural and cultural environments in a positive way
- Provides benefits to all sectors of society, including young people, women and indigenous peoples
- Attracts and develops a skilled workforce to support growing demand
- Stimulates consumer demand for sustainable products
- Uses latest technology to find innovative solutions to challenges such as overcrowding in popular tourist destinations
How to harness the benefits of a growing tourism sector
Developing countries, are becoming more competitive in the tourism market, most notably in Asia-Pacific, and developing economies are growing steadily as a result. However, as incomes rise in developing economies and airfares fall, restrictive visa regimes remain an obstacle to international travel, even for tourism purposes. The good news is these countries are realising the unnecessary barrier that these entry procedures place on their own tourism sector, curtailing economic opportunities and job creation.
According to 2018 UN World Tourism Organization data, destinations worldwide required 53% of the world’s population to obtain a visa prior to departure, a significant improvement from 2008, when 77% required one. Over the same decade, the destinations without visa requirements has only increased from 17% to 21%.