The Strategist

Asia conquers the world's travel market

04/17/2017 - 14:38

In 2016, the sector of tourism and travel contributed 10.2% to the world’s GDP. Besides, the industry created one out of ten new jobs, according to the recent "Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report" by the World Economic Forum in Davos. The European countries remained the most attractive for tourists, yet developing economies showed a significant growth in popularity as well.

The latest "Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report" by the World Economic Forum in Davos (WEF) records: the growth rate of the industry has been exceeding the world GDP’s dynamics for the sixth year in a row. In 2016, the industry contributed $ 7.6 trillion (10.2% in GDP) and 292 million jobs to the world economy. The number of tourists for the year increased by 46 million people, to 1.2 billion. The WEF believes that these trends will be persisting in the next ten years, and by 2030 the number of international tourists will increase to 1.8 billion people. Every 30 new tourists will create Additional workplace.

The report’s main analytical tool is the index of competitiveness of countries by convenience for tourism and travel. It consists of four sub-indices: accessibility, tourism and travel policies, infrastructure and natural and cultural resources. They are assessed by 14 parameters (business environment, trade and transport infrastructure, quality of health care, security, openness and prices) and 90 indicators. These parameters serve as benchmarks to define the overall rating and a country’s place in the list.

136 countries participated in the study in 2017. For the second time in a row, Spain topped the list, followed by France, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, the USA, Australia, Italy, Canada and Switzerland. Europe remains the largest tourist market thanks to its cultural heritage, infrastructure, openness and security (despite a slight decline in the latter in Western and Southern Europe). However, the Asia-Pacific region is the second largest and is growing the fastest. The paper’s authors attribute this to a shift in preferences in favor of cheap travel. Decline in the number of tourists in North America in favor of Asia owes the same reasons.  

Competitiveness of the tourism and travel market of developing countries is growing fast. 12 out of 15 countries that rose in the rating were developing or transition economies. The trade policy in many countries is becoming more and more protectionist, yet the world’s openness for tourism is growing. 58% of countries required visas to visit in 2016, while this figure stood at 77% in 2008. "On the whole, almost 85% of the states have softened the conditions for obtaining tourist visas in the last two years", the WEF notes. Also, countries are actively promoting the use of digital technologies in the travel and tourism field. Online booking of travel services has increased 2.3-fold from the first quarter of 2015 to the second quarter of 2016. The WEF found a direct correlation between level of development of the telecommunications sector and amount of added value created in the industry.

At the same time, the sector’s growth contributes to environmental degradation, although countries declare their readiness to adhere to environmental standards in the field of tourism. The WEF reveals a direct relationship between quality of a country’s natural environment and the industry's revenues. However, the world's environmental standards for its development are making no headway. "The environmental burden of tourism in most countries of Northern and Western Europe has declined, but keeps growing in most developing countries, especially Asian," the WEF concluded.