WTTC’s report reveals cities account for $691 billion in Travel & Tourism GDP and over 17 million jobs

- International visitor spending more important to cities than it is to countries
- Nine out of 10 top fastest growing cities in past decade are in emerging and developing countries
- Cities over reliant on domestic or international demand are more exposed to economic and geopolitical risks

The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), which represents the global Travel & Tourism private sector, today released its comprehensive Cities Report for 2019. The report focuses on 73 major tourism city destinations, providing estimates of the GDP and employment directly generated by the Travel & Tourism sector, and highlights successful initiatives, strategies and policies that have been implemented. 

With more than half (55%) of the world’s population living in urban areas – due to increase to 68% over the next 30 years – cities have become the hubs for global economic growth and innovation, while also attracting more people who want to live and do business.  

The report reveals these 73 cities account for $691 billion in direct Travel & Tourism GDP, which represents 25% of the sector’s direct global GDP and directly accounts for over 17 million jobs. Additionally, in 2018, direct Travel & Tourism GDP across the cities, grew by 3.6%, above the overall city economy growth of 3.0%. The top 10 largest cities for direct Travel & Tourism contribution in 2018 offer diverse geographic representation, with cities such Shanghai, Paris, and Orlando all sitting in the top five.

International visitor spending is often more important to cities than it is to countries overall. For example, Riyadh had international visitor spending accounting for 86% of total spending, while in Saudi Arabia as a whole, international visitor spending accounts for 45% of total spending. International visitors accounted for almost half (45%) of tourism spending across the 73 cities in the study, and an average spend of 29% for economies worldwide.  Revenues from international visitors, will in some cases pay for city infrastructure projects, the provision of public workers and services that improve the quality of life for residents. 

For example, in London, international visitors spent $17.5 billion in 2018, nearly twice as much as the operating costs of Transport for London, and near four times the amount than the total expenditure for policing and crime within the city. Furthermore, international visitors in New York spent $21 billion last year, which is 3.8 times higher than the costs of the NYPD, and nearly twice the budget for city schools.

The report also reveals all but one of the 10 global cities with the highest direct Travel & Tourism growth over the past decade, are in emerging and developing economies such as China, Turkey and the Philippines. Infrastructure development and prioritisation of tourism, has been a key driver of Travel & Tourism growth. The projected trends for 2018-2028 continue in this way, with all 10 coming from emerging and developing countries such as Morocco, India, Vietnam and Indonesia.

According to the report, cities with an overreliance on domestic or international demand are more exposed to economic and geopolitical shocks. Some large Brazilian and Chinese cities which are highly reliant on domestic demand, could be exposed to changes in the domestic economy. On the other hand, cities which are more reliant on international demand and/or particular source markets, may be vulnerable to external disruptions. It also highlights several cities which demonstrate a more balanced split between domestic and international demand, including Cancún, Munich, Cairo and New York, which despite their geographical differences, all maintain a near perfect 50:50 split. Furthermore, a high degree of seasonality can also, at times put pressure on infrastructure, due to the heightened demand during a narrow timeframe. 

WTTC President & CEO, Gloria Guevara said: “Cities are an essential part of the Travel & Tourism sector, both culturally and economically, and their significance is set to increase over time. Achieving sustainable growth in cities requires reaching far beyond the sector itself, and into the broader urban agenda. As we go forward, the Travel & Tourism sector must be integrated into all aspects of a cities’ planning agenda. To drive true economic impact that can translate seamlessly into social benefits, a city must engage with all stakeholders, across the public and private sector, in order to establish the cities of the future. There is an opportunity to create long-term, sustainable change that can create real change for communities, especially within cities.”