Possibly the most difficult aspect of the last recession to stomach was how the banking industry that was, at least partly, to blame received billions of pounds of government money to prop it up.

And other sectors, like the car manufacturing industry, that had until the credit crunch been merrily pumping out vehicles no one wanted, also managed to secure public money to stave off oblivion.

Travel and tourism, meanwhile, which is bigger than the automotive industry and not far behind banking enjoyed no such favoured a position.

And yet it is travel and tourism that could provide the vital economic stimulus to drag economies out of the doldrums, according to the WTTC that launched its Economic Impact 2011 report in London on Thursday, coincidentally, on the day the UK government revealed its Tourism Strategy.

The WTTC, however, did not pick out the UK but other countries like China, Japan and particularly Mexico, as good examples of where tourism is being placed at the very top of the political agenda and where its potential value to the economy is being truly acknowledged.

The latter has become the first country to join the WTTC and UN World Tourism Organisation’s campaign to highlight the importance of tourism and declared 2011 the year of tourism as it strives to rise from the world’s seventh largest tourist economy to fifth in two years.

WTCC chief executive David Scowsill said: “Travel and tourism is probably the fastest industry for putting jobs back into the market place when you are coming out of recession. Travel and tourism has an extraordinary ability to absorb growth in terms of jobs.”

The WTTC’s projections through its work with Oxford Economics make for impressive reading with travel and tourism’s contribution to global GDP expected to increase 4.2% in the next decade to $9.2 trillion and accounting for one in ten jobs globallly.

Travel and tourism contribution to GDP in 2010The global outlook for travel and tourism

Scowsill said while a number of developing and emerging countries were grasping these opportunities the UK still had some way to go, although was getting there, and the US was even further behind despite making strides of late.

The WTTC’s choice of Las Vegas for its annual conference in May was specifically calculated as a challenge to President Barrack Obama after he made several statements to the effect  that people should travel less during the recession.

Scowsill said: “Because of that Las Vegas took a big dip because a lot of conferences were cancelled because it was not politically correct.”

The WTTC research looked at how much longer the US economy would have taken to return to year on year growth if business travel were to stop and found it would have been 2014. With it growth returned this year.

Alternative scenarios for US profit growth Rising living standards will drive travel and tourism growth - GDP per capita for key regions

Scowsill said: “It’s a lot broader than just people getting on an airplane, it’s what they do when they get there, how they stimulate economic activity and growth.

“Governments need to wake up now and see the growth we are forecasting and where it’s coming from and they need to plan now because otherwise they won’t be ready for this growth when it comes.”

Three major stumbling blocks needs to be addressed, Scowsill said, if the potential of tourism is to be unlocked: time consuming and bureaucratic visa procedures; a lack of uniformity of security measures in airports, and, in some countries, tax.

“We are victims of a lot of unnecessary taxation which inhibits growth. The UK government is guilty of this taxation issue, particularly with APD which has been increased to the point where it’s beginning to put people off travelling to certain parts of the world,” Scowsill said.

“The UK is showing signs now of coming to the party but it still has some way to go. We have to have cooperation between private and public sector to really stimulate travel and tourism.”

One area where the UK resolutely refuses to come to the party is airport expansion and this is something the WTTC believes could hold Britain back from taking advantage of the predicted boom in travel from emerging countries like China, India and Brazil.

“It’s clearly going to be a barrier to growth we see coming over the hill over the next 20 years. It’s clear that if there are no new runway slots in the south east of England a lot of business is going to go to the continent.

“This is particularly important for business travel. It’s going to be a constraint and markets around Asia where there are is less constraint to adding airport capacity are perfectly positioned to absorb this growth.”

Speaking before we found out the details of how the British tourism minister intends to drive the sector forward Scowsill echoed Travel Weekly’s ‘Yes Minister’ general election campaign when we called for the UK to prioritise tourism with a cabinet-level position.

“If you talk to the tourism minister he will tell you there are only certain things you can do here. It’s not a full blown advisory role as exists in other countries with the full power of a travel and tourism minister.

“The government has got to facilitate movement in all directions; outbound, inbound and domestic. It really has to understand the impact tourism has on exports, growth and GDP.”