The UK travel and tourism industry outperformed the country’s overall economy last year with the help of major events like the Olympics.
The sector’s contribution to GDP grew by 0.5%, compared with 0.1% total GDP growth, according to research by the World Travel & Tourism Council.
The total economic contribution in 2012 - taking account of its direct, indirect and induced impacts - was £106.3 billion in GDP, £8.9 billion in investment - 4% of total investment - and £25.3 billion in exports - 5% of total exports,
The industry supported more than 2.42 million jobs in 2012 (8% of UK total employment) with a forecasted 1% expansion in 2013.
The UK attracted 29.2 million visitors in 2012, whose total spending increased by 2%, UN World Tourism Organisation figures show.
WTTC and UNWTO predict that the number of international travellers to the UK will rise by 2% to 29.8 million this year.
The industry is expected to support nearly 266 million jobs in 2013 and continue to outperform many other industries.
But government action is needed on Air Passenger Duty, visa regulations and grid-locked airports.
WTTC president and chief executive David Scowsill said: “Travel and tourism has been a real hero for the British economy. The UK is the only European G20 country where travel and tourism outperformed its economy in 2012.
“The growth and saviour of the industry in the UK was leisure spending and this is very likely to have been driven by recent events such as the Royal Wedding, the Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics”.
WTTC is predicting the industry will expand its total contribution to GDP by 1.7% this year, compared with the 2.4% predicted for global economic travel and tourism growth. The organisation also predicts the travel and tourism industry will expand its total contribution to global GDP by 3.2% in 2013, faster than the 2.4% predicted for global economic growth.
Scowsill added: “This year’s results hammer home that travel and tourism is an important driver for UK economic development and for job creation.
“But the UK’s restrictive visa and tax regimes are holding back further economic growth.
“The British government is charging the highest Air Passenger Duty tax in the world, insisting on lengthy and costly visa application processes, whilst postponing decisions on key infrastructure expansion.
“WTTC is calling on the UK government to loosen visa bureaucracy, reduce high air passenger duty and improve airport capacity. The UK government is not maximising the opportunity that this industry provides to stimulate job creation and economic growth.”
Among the 20 largest global economies (the G20), South Korea, China, South Africa and Indonesia performed best.
Growth of less than 1% in Europe and 2% in the US was counter-balanced by 10% growth in South Korea, 7% in China and South Africa and 6% in Indonesia.
Scowsill warned: “The UK is being left behind by emerging market destinations such as China, which is investing and seeing strong growth. In fact, WTTC forecasts that China will overtake the US to be the world’s biggest travel and tourism economy by 2023.”
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