According to the World Travel & Tourism Council’s (WTTC) 2023 Economic Impact Research (EIR), the UK Travel and tourism sector is expected to surpass its 2019 peak this year. It is projected to contribute £252.4 billion to the UK economy, exceeding the pre-pandemic high of £248.5 billion in 2019. Additionally, WTTC forecasts that the sector will generate nearly 380,000 jobs in 2023, recovering almost all of the jobs lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic, bringing the total employment in the sector to over 4 million. This means approximately one in nine workers in the UK will be employed in the Travel & Tourism sector.
Furthermore, international visitor spending in the UK is expected to reach £26.18 billion, just 6% behind the 2019 peak of £38.6 billion.
Looking back at the previous year, the sector’s GDP contribution increased by 65% to over £237 billion in 2022, accounting for 9.5% of the UK’s economy, nearing the 2019 high of 9.9%. In 2022, the sector also added 1.1 million jobs compared to the previous year, reaching a total of 3.6 million jobs nationwide, representing one in ten jobs in the UK. The sector has now recovered 1.5 million of the 1.7 million jobs lost during the pandemic.
Last year also witnessed the return of international travelers to the UK, with spending from overseas visitors increasing by over 300% from 2021 to nearly £30 billion. Domestic visitor spending fully recovered in 2022, matching the pre-pandemic high of £165 billion.
Julia Simpson, WTTC President & CEO, emphasized the sector’s significance, stating that Travel and tourism creates one in every ten jobs in the UK and contributes over £250 billion annually to the economy. While the forecasts are positive, she suggested that the UK government should aim higher to secure the sector’s recovery and long-term growth, particularly given concerns about the removal of VAT-free shopping for international tourists, which may lead high-value tourists to choose other destinations over the UK.
WTTC’s global projections indicate that by 2033, the sector in the UK will contribute nearly £315 billion to the GDP, accounting for nearly 11% of the UK economy and employing over 5 million people, with one in seven Britons working in the sector.
In Europe, the Travel & Tourism sector contributed €1.9 trillion to the regional economy in 2022, which was 7% below the 2019 peak. WTTC forecasts that the region’s GDP contribution from the sector will exceed €2 trillion in 2023, approaching the 2019 highpoint. Although the sector employed almost 35 million people in the region in 2022, an increase of 2.9 million from the previous year, it still lags 3.2 million behind pre-pandemic levels. WTTC anticipates a full recovery of the jobs lost during the pandemic by the end of 2024.
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