The World Travel & Tourism Council’s (WTTC) 2023 Economic Impact Research (EIR) reveals the UK Travel & Tourism sector is forecast to exceed the 2019 peak this year. The sector is set to contribute £252.4bn to the UK economy this year, surpassing the 2019 pre-pandemic high of £248.5bn.
WTTC is also forecasting that the sector will create almost 380,000 jobs this year, recovering almost all of the jobs lost due to the COVID 19 pandemic to reach more than 4mn, with around one in nine workers in the UK, in the Travel & Tourism sector.
International visitor spend to the UK is forecast to reach £26.18bn, just 6 per cent behind the 2019 peak of £38.6bn.
A look back on last year
Last year, the sector’s GDP contribution grew by 65 per cent to reach more than £237bn, representing 9.5 per cent of the economy, edging closer to the 2019 high of 9.9 per cent of the economy. Last year the sector also created 1.1mn more jobs from the previous year to reach 3.6mn jobs nationally – one in 10 jobs across the UK. The sector has now recovered 1.5mn of the 1.7mn jobs lost during the pandemic.
Last year also saw the return of international travelers heading to the UK with spending from overseas visitors growing over 300 per cent from 2021 to reach almost £30bn.
Domestic visitor spend fully recovered in 2022 to match the pre-pandemic high of £165BN, showing that whilst the UK has taken longer to attract high spending overseas visitors, the staycation is here to stay.
Julia Simpson, WTTC President & CEO, said: “Travel & Tourism creates one in every ten jobs in the UK. It contributes over £250bn a year to the UK economy.
“Whilst our forecasts show the sector will reach a quarter of a trillion pounds this year, and predicts international visitor spend will recover by early next year, the UK Government should be aiming higher.
“The recovery and long-term growth of the sector is at risk with the self-axing of VAT-free shopping for international tourists. We will continue to see high-value tourists choosing France and Italy over the UK and taking with them economic value and jobs.”
What does the next decade look like?
The global tourism body is forecasting that the sector will grow its GDP contribution to almost £315bn by 2033, nearly 11 per cent of the UK economy and will employ over 5mn people across the country, with one in seven Brits working in the sector.
In 2022, the European Travel & Tourism sector contributed €1.9trn to the regional economy, just 7 per cent below the 2019 peak. WTTC forecasts the region’s GDP contribution from the sector will reach more than €2trn in 2023 – within touching distance of the 2019 highpoint.
The sector employed almost 35mn people across the region in 2022, an increase of 2.9mn from the previous year but still 3.2mn behind pre-pandemic levels. WTTC forecasts the sector will fully recover the jobs lost during the pandemic by the end of 2024.