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Travel and tourism will be critical to Asia Pacific’s economic recovery

World Travel & Tourism Council’s 2019 Economic Impact Report reveals how big a part this sector plays in driving the economy in the region

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In the 2019 report, international visitor spend was US$548 billion, representing 6.6% of the region's total exports. Credit: Getty images

LONDON - A new report has revealed the vital contribution that travel & tourism will make to Asia-Pacific's economic recovery, once the COVID-19 pandemic has been combatted.

The publication by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) said that the fastest growing region during 2019, driven by the continued growth in middle income households, visa facilitation, improved connectivity and government prioritisation of the sector, generated $2,971 billion USD towards GDP, or 9.8% of the region's economy, growing by 5.5% from the previous year, ahead of the overall regional economy for the fifth consecutive year, which grew by 4.2%.  

International visitor spend was US$548 billion, representing 6.6% of the region's total exports. In the last five years, the region was a world leader in job creation, with this sector creating more than 21 million new jobs, equating to 56% of all new jobs globally.

Leisure travel makes up the majority of total travel and tourism spend (81%), with only 19% being attributed to business travel, with domestic visitor spend making up 74% of the total, and international making up 26%.

China led the region in 2019 in terms of GDP and employment size, with strong performances in other major Asian markets such as Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines.  

Travel and tourism support more jobs in China than in any other country in the region - nearly 80 million jobs, or, 10.3% of total employment. It grew by 9.3% and is the second largest in the world - making up 11.3% of China's overall economy.

Malaysia and Vietnam also witnessed significant growth, up 6.6% and 7.7% respectively; both displayed an even split between domestic and international visitor spending, with 49% of visitor spend from domestic travellers and 51% of spend from international.

The majority of the sector's spending in both countries overwhelmingly came from leisure travel, with Malaysia attributing 86% of visitor spend to leisure, and Vietnam attributing 90%.  

The Philippines also saw significant growth by 8.6%, making up 25.3% of the total economy in the country and supporting 24.1% of total employment (more than 10 million jobs). Leisure spending made up 66% of total visitor spending, and 85% was made up of domestic visitors.

Gloria Guevara, WTTC President & CEO, said: "Our report underscores how vital travel and tourism will be in powering the recovery of the region's economy, generating new jobs and driving visitors back to Asia-Pacific, having a positive economic domino effect on suppliers large and small throughout the industry.

"Until then, it is crucial that all governments throughout the region help to protect travel and tourism as the backbone of the regional and global economy, which is currently in a fight for survival. Our research shows that up to 75 million jobs globally are at immediate risk, with more than 48 million at risk across the Asia Pacific region alone, highlighting how critically the sector requires support."

On a global level, the Asia Pacific is the top performing region worldwide with an impressive growth rate of 5.5%, followed very closely by the Middle East at 5.3%.