The State of Travel: Key Tourism Statistics and Trends

Travel and tourism is one of the world’s largest industries, supporting millions of jobs and accounting for trillions in global economic impact each year. But just how big is the travel industry and who is doing the traveling? Here we dive into the key tourism statistics and trends that reveal the current state of tourism.

Global Tourism Industry Stats

  • Total economic impact from travel and tourism reached $8.8 trillion in 2021, up from $8.6 trillion in 2020 but still below the $9.2 trillion generated in 2019 before the Covid-19 pandemic. (World Travel & Tourism Council)
  • There were 4 billion global tourist arrivals in 2021, up from 381 million in 2020 but still well below the 1.5 billion arrivals in 2019. International tourism is rebounding after a major slump but has not fully recovered. (UNWTO)
  • Travel and tourism generated 330 million jobs globally in 2021. That’s 1 in 10 jobs worldwide supported by the tourism industry. (WTTC)
  • The travel sector represented 10.3% of global GDP and 27.3% of global services exports in 2021. As a share of GDP, travel has rebounded close to 2019 levels. (WTTC)

Travelers and Tourism Spending

  • In 2021, Americans took a total of 1.4 billion person trips for business and leisure purposes. This was up from 1.1 billion trips in 2020 but below the 1.9 billion trips taken in 2019. (USTA)
  • The average American traveler spent $2,023 on trips in 2021, up slightly from $1,992 spent in 2020. (USTA)
  • Millennials spend more on travel overall than any other generation, averaging around $5,600 per person annually. Gen Xers spend around $5,400 per year. (AARP, Resonance)
  • Solo travel has been on the rise, with 25% of travelers often taking trips alone. Younger generations travel solo more frequently than older. (AAA)
  • The Middle East enjoys the highest travel spending per capita globally. In 2021, residents of countries like Qatar, Kuwait and Israel averaged over $2,000 per person. (WTTC)

Popular Destinations and Activities

  • The most visited country in the world pre-pandemic was France, which welcomed 90 million foreign arrivals in 2019. Spain, the U.S., China and Italy round out the top 5. (UNWTO)
  • In the U.S., the most visited states are California, Florida, Nevada, Colorado and Washington. Major cities like Orlando, Las Vegas and Los Angeles see huge numbers. (USTA)
  • Beaches remain the most popular travel destination worldwide, followed by city vacations, domestic rural trips, national parks visits and food-focused travel. (AIEST)
  • Shopping, visiting friends/relatives, dining out, beaches and rural sightseeing are consistently the top travel activities for U.S. travelers each year. (USTA)

Business Travel and Events

  • Global spending on business travel is forecast to reach $1.4 trillion by 2022, up 4.5% from 2021 but still well below the $1.7 trillion spent in 2019. It is rebounding slower than leisure. (GBTA)
  • There were 400 million business trip arrivals globally in 2021, outpacing 285 million arrivals in 2020 but below 550 million pre-pandemic. (WTTC)
  • The U.S. hosted the most business conferences worldwide in 2019 with 967,000 events compared to 578,000 in Germany, 539,000 in UK and 107,000 in France. (Statista)

Travel Industry Outlook

  • International tourist arrivals are projected to reach 1.8 billion globally by 2030, up from 4 billion in 2019 but below forecasts made before the pandemic. (UNWTO)
  • By 2024, business travel spending could recover to nearly 96% of 2019 volumes. Full recovery is expected by 2026. (GBTA)
  • The travel and tourism sector’s contribution to global GDP is forecast to rise 3.2% annually over the next decade, showing an overall positive growth outlook. (WTTC)

While the pandemic delivered an unprecedented shock, key statistics show travel is rebounding, it is clear from both the consumer and business travel statistics. As tourism fully recovers and continues growing worldwide, these trends and data snapshots provide valuable insights into who is traveling, where and how much they are spending. The travel industry’s future remains brighter than ever.