The US retained its position as the world’s largest travel and tourism economy despite a standstill in international visitors from China last year due to trade tensions.

The sector contributed almost $1.6 trillion to GDP. This translates to 7.8% of US GDP with the sector growing by 2.2% last year.

But Chinese travel to the US was flat last year, partly due to trade tensions between the two countries, after recording average annual growth of 23% over the previous decade.

Visitors from China account for 4% of total US visitors but 11% of all spending, demonstrating their economic importance to the country.

This is according to the World Travel & Tourism Council’s annual research into the economic impact and social importance of the sector.

It found that travel and tourism grew 3.9% globally in 2018 to contribute a record $8.8 trillion and 319 million jobs to the world economy.

This was above the growth rate of world GDP for the eighth consecutive year.

The sector now accounts for one in five of all new jobs created worldwide and is forecast to contribute 100 million new jobs globally over the next ten years, accounting for 421 million jobs by 2029, according to WTTC President and CEO Gloria Guevara.

The sector accounts for 15.6 million jobs in the US alone yet tourism spending by inbound travellers fell by almost 1% year-on-year to $198.8 billion.

The WTTC urged the Trump administration to:

  • Preserve Brand USA: “We support the renewal of Brand USA this year – a programme with broad bi-partisan support -beyond its current 2020 authorisation to continue marketing the US as a premier global travel and tourism destination.”
  • Expand and rebrand the US visa waiver programme: “With its bilateral security and travel facilitation benefits, we support the rebranding of the VWP as the “Secure Travel Partnership Program” and its expansion beyond the current 38 participating nations to other qualified countries.”
  • Modernise US airport and other infrastructure: “WTTC recognises the importance of world class travel and tourism infrastructure – particularly airports.”
  • Expand biometric passenger identification: “WTTC recognises and supports the biometric passenger identification and processing initiative, an area where the US is leading the world. The work being undertaken by US Customs and Border Protection for the roll-out of a seamless traveller experience is helping us to transform the passenger experience, enhance security and create jobs.”

Guevara saId: “Travel and tourism has been a consistent driver of employment in the United States. The sector creates jobs, drives exports and generates prosperity.

“Its continued resilience and our projections for growth serve to highlight the importance of the industry to the US economy. The US is the biggest travel market in the world, the sector is integral to the country’s broader economic performance and must be prioritised.”

She added: “For the eighth consecutive year, our sector outpaced growth in the wider global economy and we recorded the second-highest growth of any major sector in the world.

“Yet again, this proves the power of travel and tourism as a tool for governments to generate prosperity while creating jobs which particularly support women, youth and other, often marginalised groups of society.”