September 27th is the date on which we celebrate World Tourism Day and we can stop to analyse: how much has changed in the sector over the last few years? As a Tourism professional for some time now, I have followed the various transformations of an industry which, one of my best friends used to say “is the business of happiness”.
This is one of the most assertive phrases in relation to the sector: Tourism is made to be consumed with smiles. It’s no wonder that it’s one of the fastest growing businesses in the entire world; for example, in the year 2000 there was a total of 677 million international visitors, and in 2016, this number had grown to 1.2 billion tourists discovering the various corners of the globe (UNWTO).
Economically, we have an incredibly active industry (and, in many cases, one that shores up economies!): in 2016 it had a global turnover of US$ 7.6 trillion (WTTC, 2017), by comparison with the year 2000 when the comparable figure was one of US$ 450 billion. Last year the amounts spent by tourists on travel represented 6.6% of the planet’s total exports.
In addition, in 2016 the travel industry supported a total of 292 million jobs. That means that 1 in 10 jobs is associated with the industry. Tourism accounts for 10.2% of the world’s GDP.
Why is it important to constantly remember this sector’s relevance? So that Tourism is not just seen as a collection of figures in the balance sheet at the end of the year. Essentially tourism is done on behalf of, and should primarily be aimed at people. Behind every economic balance sheet are the people who arrive at a destination as well as those who are already part of it.
“The Happiness Industry”. Tourism is not only connected to almost every other market activity – it is so strongly interlinked with various other spheres: social, cultural, environmental, that we can apply it to any related term and this statement will still hold true.
The industry of peace.
The industry of tolerance.
The industry of development.
It is the universal industry. You have to look far beyond the destinations and their visits. In a year of difficult economic journeys, teetering international relations, unresolved policies and current threats, Tourism teaches us to embrace the new and to respect what already exists, and reminds us that there is nothing in this year 2017 that the industry has not previously experienced and successfully survived, as can be witnessed by its growth over the decades.
Tourism is consumed with smiles and is also performed with smiles. One thing does not change: travel remains one of the main leisure activities worldwide. Long live Tourism!
The opinions expressed in this text are the author’s opinion and do not necessarily reflect the position of WTM Latin America.