Many people love to travel. They seek out new places like vibrant cities, cozy small towns, and beautiful natural environments like beaches and forests. For years, the tourism industry has evolved and grown as people scour the globe for unique experiences and activities. Things stalled in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, but as countries like the United States start to see improvement, tourists are once again booking trips in high numbers. This signals hope for the future of the industry. Here are ten reasons why tourism is important:
#1. The tourism industry employs a lot of people
For years, tourism has been a big job generator. Because the industry is so varied and includes jobs like pilots, hotel workers, travel guides, and more, it can be hard to estimate exactly how many, but it’s a lot. In 2017, reports estimated that about 1 in 10 jobs were part of the tourism industry. In the US alone, almost 5.5 million were employed by the industry in 2021.
#2. The tourism industry can pay very well
While salary varies depending on where you live, the tourism industry offers many opportunities for good-paying jobs. At one point, the US Travel Association found that 40% of Americans who start in travel and tourism reach an annual career salary of over $100,000. Certain jobs, like luxury travel advisors, pilots, hotel managers, and cruise ship directors tend to pay the most.
#3. Tourism impacts GDP growth (and decline)
Considering how many people tourism employs, it makes sense it would affect a country’s GDP. In 2019, the direct contribution of travel and tourism accounted for 3.3% of the world’s total GDP. That represented a small rise since 2018. That changed in 2020 because of the pandemic. Tourism’s contribution to the GDP dropped by almost 50% according to the World Travel and Tourism Council. If there was any doubt about tourism’s impact on GDP, 2020 put that doubt to rest.
#4. Tourism supports low-income countries
Many of the world’s lowest-income countries depend on tourism. In 2015, 48 of the lower-income and lower-middle income countries saw a surge of tourists, which brought in about $21 billion (USD). For the world’s Small Island Developing States (SIDS), 30% of their export revenues come from tourism. In Palau, an island nation in the Pacific, tourism is responsible for 90% of all exports. For these nations, tourism is key to their growth.
#5. Tourism plays a role in gender equality
In most parts of the world, women fill the majority of the tourism industry. Unfortunately, they tend to hold more jobs on the lowest rung and many perform unpaid labor in family tourism businesses. That said, the wage gap is smaller according to UN Women. Women earn 14.7% less than men and fill more leadership roles than in other fields. Tourism is a field ripe for opportunities and strategies that can further empower women.
#6. Tourism is good for rural areas
“Rural tourism” has become increasingly popular as tourists from busy cities long for more natural environments. They seek out unique experiences such as staying on a farm, going for days-long hikes with guides, rock-climbing, and more. These visits create jobs for people living in these rural areas and show authorities that these places are worth preserving and investing in. It also presents opportunities for tourists to learn more about an area in its natural state and form a closer connection with the people who live there.
#7. Tourism can play a role in fighting against climate change
When you think of entities contributing to climate change, you might not think of tourism, but the industry contributes 8% of all global greenhouse gases. That’s driven by planes, other transportation, and the consumption of goods and services. As tourism grows, the impact on the climate will grow, too. Luckily, the industry is fighting back. The World Travel and Tourism Council is a major leader and developed a plan in 2019 to become climate neutral by 2050. It’s also a top priority for the World Tourism Organization, which is a United Nations entity.
#8. Tourism encourages conservation
One way tourism can help nature is through conservation. Nature-based tourism is very popular, which gives authorities a strong incentive to protect nature such as old-growth forests, lakes, coastlines, state parks, gardens, and wildlife. Tourists want to scuba-dive in gorgeous clear water, walk through woods, and camp in the wilderness. Costa Rica is a good example of a nation realizing that conservation can draw tourists. After a deforestation trend, the country reversed course and gained twice the forest cover it had in three decades. In 2019, this brought in the US equivalent of $6.14 billion.
#9. Tourism preserves culture
Tourism helps culture in a few ways. One is through the support of artisans who sell their wares to visitors. Markets and shops are a draw to many tourists interested in souvenirs for people back home or as a way to remember their trip. Tourists also often visit cultural sites and watch local music, dance, theater, and other performances. These sustain intangible culture, which gives regions their unique identity and protects the multiculturalism of our world.
#10. Travel has many benefits
You know how tourism affects the economy, climate change, and culture, but what about the tourists themselves? There are many benefits to traveling if a person is privileged enough to do it. Adam Galinsky, a professor from Columbia Business School studies the link between international and creativity. He says that experiences in other countries can increase a person’s cognitive flexibility, though it depends on how a person engages. Travel is also known to boost a person’s happiness and lower their stress. Few can afford a luxury travel experience, but even visits to local cultural sites or natural areas can benefit a person’s well-being. You can learn more about tourism and its benefits in a free online course.