The UK’s Travel & Tourism sector is on track to exceed its 2019 peak this year, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC)’s 2023 Economic Impact Research (EIR). The sector is projected to contribute GBP (British pound sterling) 252.4 billion to the UK economy, surpassing the pre-pandemic high of GBP 248.5 billion in 2019.
WTTC also anticipates that the sector will create nearly 380,000 jobs in 2023, effectively recovering most of the jobs lost during the COVID-19 pandemic. This will bring the total workforce in the Travel & Tourism sector to over four million, accounting for about one in nine workers in the UK.
International visitor spending in the UK is expected to reach GBP 26.18 billion, just 6 per cent below the 2019 peak of GBP 38.6 billion.
Looking back at 2022, the sector’s GDP contribution increased by 65 per cent to more than GBP 237 billion, representing 9.5 per cent of the economy, approaching the 2019 high of 9.9 per cent. During the same period, the sector created 1.1 million additional jobs, reaching a total of 3.6 million jobs nationally, equivalent to 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. International visitor spending also saw significant growth, surging over 300 per cent from 2021 to nearly GBP 30 billion.
Domestic visitor spending fully recovered in 2022, matching the pre-pandemic high of GBP 165 billion, indicating the enduring popularity of staycations.
Julia Simpson, WTTC President & CEO, emphasised the sector’s significance, with Travel & Tourism creating one in every ten jobs and contributing over GBP 250 billion annually to the UK economy. She urged the UK government to aim higher for the sector’s recovery and long-term growth, expressing concerns about the removal of VAT-free shopping for international tourists, which could lead high-value tourists to choose other destinations.
Looking ahead to the next decade, WTTC forecasts that the sector will increase its GDP contribution to nearly GBP 315 billion by 2033, constituting nearly 11 per cent 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 EU 1.9 trillion to the regional economy in 2022, just 7 per cent below the 2019 peak. WTTC projects that the sector’s GDP contribution will surpass EU 2 trillion in 2023, nearing the 2019 highpoint.
Despite employing nearly 35 million people in 2022, an increase of 2.9 million from the previous year, the sector still lags behind pre-pandemic levels by 3.2 million jobs. WTTC anticipates a full recovery of these lost jobs by the end of 2024.