Travel and tourism can expect a decade of “dramatic” growth despite the economic downturn in established source markets.

Professor Ian Goldin, director of the Oxford Martin School at the University of Oxford, told the World Tourism Forum in Lucerne: “This industry will have the most rapid growth over the next decade.

“For governments, tourism investment will get the biggest bang for their buck. Few industries are so scaleable.”

The UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) reported one billion travellers crossed international borders last year for the first time and forecast 1.8 billion international trips a year by 2030.

Yet Goldin said: “If anything, the forecasts may be rather conservative and the growth even more dramatic. Travel will possibly be the greatest creator of jobs in future.”

He added: “Tourism is the quickest way to overcome poverty.”

UNWTO secretary general Taleb Rifai agreed, saying: “Tourism is one of the few industries that brings good news. In Europe we saw 3% growth in travel and tourism numbers last year and 4% growth worldwide. We estimate 3%-3.5% growth worldwide in 2013.”

Rifai said: “The world has been transformed. People are moving more and moving faster than ever before.” But he added: “The big numbers will have a big impact and impose a big responsibility.

“We contribute to global warming and tourism is also affected by global warming. In fact, tourism is one of the most affected sectors.”

Industry investor Samih Sawiris, chairman of Orascom Development Holding, told the forum: “Why invest in tourism? You make a lot of money. You end up employing a huge number of people and it is always fun.

“Also it keeps a country open to other cultures. Egypt could have become another Afghanistan. The influx of foreign visitors kept us from that.”

Michael Frenzel, former chairman of Tui Travel and chairman of the World Travel and Tourism Council, said: “I changed Tui from a heavy industry conglomerate to tourism because it is more fun to sell a holiday than a submarine. Tourism is a wonderful industry.”