New research by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) has revealed the recovery of the Asia-Pacific travel and tourism sector has soared ahead of many regions in the world, with year-on-year growth of more than 36 per cent.
Before the pandemic struck, the APAC travel and tourism sector’s contribution to GDP represented more than US$3 trillion ($4.1 trillion) or 9.9 per cent of the region’s economy.
After the pandemic brought international travel to an almost complete standstill in 2020, APAC saw a hit of almost 54 per cent, halving the contribution of the travel and tourism sector to the region’s economy.
However, according to the WTTC’s research, and based on the current rate of recovery, the sector’s contribution to the region’s GDP could see a year-on-year increase of 36.3 per cent this year, ahead of the global average of 30.7 per cent, which represents an increase of US$515 billion ($707.6 billion).
The data also reveals travel and tourism’s contribution to the APAC economy could see a similar year-on-year rise of 35.8 per cent in 2022, representing an increase of US$692 billion ($950.8 billion).
Domestic spending is expected to grow by 49 per cent by the end of this year and experience a year-on-year rise of more than a quarter (25.5 per cent) in 2022.
The WTTC’s research goes on to show that while international spending is predicted to drop by nearly 25 per cent on 2020 figures – one of the worst years on record for the travel and tourism sector – 2022 is looking more positive.
Next year, international spending growth is set to rise by US$156 billion ($214.3 billion) or 148 per cent, providing a massive boost to the region’s economy.
In terms of employment, in 2019, the APAC travel and tourism sector supported more than 185 million jobs.
After a loss of over 34 million jobs last year, when travel restrictions brought international mobility to an almost complete standstill, devastating livelihoods across the region and around the world, employment growth is set to rise by a marginal 0.4 per cent in 2021.
However, employment growth could experience a 19.8 per cent year on year increase, reaching more than 181 million jobs in 2022.
Julia Simpson, president and chief executive of the WTTC, said: “Our research clearly shows that while the global travel and tourism sector is beginning to recover, Asia Pacific is doing so at a much faster rate.
“Many countries in the APAC region, such as the Philippines, host to our prestigious annual Global Summit next March, are not only ramping up their entire vaccination program, but also focusing on speeding up the vaccination rollout in key tourism destinations and frontline tourism sector workers in order to reboot their travel and tourism sectors.
“With high vaccination rates around the region, and a predicted rise in international and domestic spend next year, the outlook for both jobs and GDP is looking much more positive for next year.”
According to the research, the sector’s contribution to the region’s GDP and the rise in jobs could be more positive this year and next, if five vital measures are met by governments around the world.
These measures outlined by the WTTC include allowing fully-vaccinated travellers to move freely, irrespective of their origin or eventual destination.
Secondly, the council said the implementation of digital solutions will enable all travellers to easily prove their COVID status, in turn speeding up the process at borders around the world.
Thirdly, for safe international travel to fully restart, the WTTC said governments must recognise all vaccines authorised by the World Health Organisation.
Fourthly, continued support of the COVAX/UNICEF initiative to ensure equitable distribution of vaccines around the world, according to the council.
And finally, the WTTC is calling for continued implementation of enhanced health and safety protocols, which it said will underpin customer confidence.
The future could be brighter for the Asia Pacific
If these five vital measures are followed before the end of 2021, the WTTC’s research shows the impact on the economy and jobs across APAC could be considerable.
The travel and tourism’s contribution to GDP would benefit from these measures and could rise by 46.7 per cent or US$ 661 billion ($908.2 billion) by the end of this year, and a further year on year rise of 37.8 per cent or US$785 billion ($1.1 trillion) in 2022.
According to the research, domestic spending could increase by 59 per cent this year, followed by 26.2 per cent growth in 2022.
Although international spending could continue to plunge by 12.6 per cent in 2021, the WTTC’s research showed that it could experience a massive boost of 153 per cent next year, representing a rise of US$188 billion ($258.3 billion).
Employment could see an eight per cent rise this year, and a year-on-year increase of 21.6 per cent in 2022, recovering more than 47 million jobs by next year. This would exceed pre-pandemic levels and provide the region with an additional 13 million jobs.
Featured image source: iStock/Harvepino