So it turns out tourism is NOT the world's biggest industry
"Stop saying it is" was the academic blogger, obviously frustrated by the lofty, hyperbolic statements made by those in our industry frustrated by the lack of attention to tourism at all levels of government.
It would seem that lofty, unsubstantiated statements like these are probably working in the opposite direction from what they intend to do. So what if tourism is not the world's biggest industry?
Well it does turn out that tourism is a huge, mega, humungous industry and that's pretty big. A recent study by Oxford Economics in 2013 points to tourism as a $2.2 trillion dollar industry. And since we fail to grasp how much $2.2 trillion dollars is, we looked at comparisons to other industries which make the industry that is not the world's biggest pretty impressive indeed.
Tourism is actually double that of the auto industry. Think of all that space in the business sections of the newspapers dedicate to the rise and fall and rise again of auto manufacturing followed by editorial on government hand-outs and bail outs, jobs lost, jobs gained and jobs saved. Politicians standing in front of shuttered auto plants and cutting ribbons at new plants probably lured by promises of tax relief and other government incentives. Just try reading the business section of a newspaper and NOT read something about auto manufacturing and then think that our little industry, top corner one paragraph article on page 19 is DOUBLE that.
As this study was published to support a WTTC (World Travel and Tourism Congress) annual meeting in Japan, arguably a post WW II economy recovery on the backs of Toyotas, Hondas and Mazdas found that tourism, in Japan alone is almost 3/4 the size of auto manufacturing and creates 80% more jobs. And Japan is not even in the top 10 of the world’s most travelled to destinations. How helpful tourism must be to support "Abenomics" in pulling Japan out of the doldrums of the last 15 years. And tourism demand remains lofty.
Tourism is 2.8% of the world's GDP. After the education sector, it’s the top job creator--50 jobs for each $1M US spent and the economic spread and trickle down of tourism exceeds many, many other industries.
Tourism may not be the world's biggest industry, but it’s the top job creator, employer of youth, top service export and significant contributor to the elimination of poverty and ultimately the world's best spreader of global cultural understanding. It took one thousand years for international tourism to grow to one billion travellers in 2012. It will take less than 20 years for that to double by 2031. Governments at all levels who ignore the power of tourism, do so at their peril.