March 5, 2019 / 5:32 PM / 5 months ago

Global travel industry seen 'resilient' despite slowing growth

BERLIN (Reuters) - The global travel industry is likely to expand by 4 percent in 2019 despite slowing economic growth in key areas such China and Europe, but a no-deal Brexit could wipe out 700,000 travel-related jobs, a top industry association said on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: Tourists are seen at St. Mark's Square in Venice, Italy, April 15, 2108. REUTERS/Manuel Silvestri/File Photo

The travel and tourism sector grew 3.9 percent to $8.8 trillion in 2018, accounting for 10.5 percent of global gross domestic product, and outpacing global GDP growth of 3.2 percent, Gloria Guevara, president and chief executive of the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), told Reuters.

Based on data from 185 countries, the group forecasts steady growth of 4 percent this year, given continued demand from China, the second largest travel and tourism market behind the United States, and other countries in Asia.

“Every crisis impacts the numbers, but this sector is very resilient,” Guevara said, noting that expansion in the travel and tourism sector traditionally outpaced global GDP growth.

Britain and the United States were two of few countries in which travel and tourism underperformed economic growth, she said, citing uncertainty about Britain’s departure from the European Union and what she called the “non-welcoming message” being sent out by U.S. President Donald Trump.

Travel and tourism’s contribution to Britain’s gross domestic product grew by just 1 percent in 2018, while overall GDP expanded 1.4 percent. The sector accounted for $311 billion in GDP in 2018, or about 11 percent of overall GDP.

If Britain leaves the EU without an agreement, it could lose 300,000 jobs, with an additional 400,000 jobs likely to disappear elsewhere in Europe, she said.

A rebound would depend “on how soon they can fix the situation,” she said, noting such a development would also keep Britain from benefiting fully from the expected creation of over 100 million jobs in the sector over the next 12 years.

In the United States, travel and tourism as a percentage of GDP grew 2.2 percent last year, while the overall economy expanded 2.9 percent, the association reported.

It said the travel and tourism sectors in Turkey, China, India, Thailand and France reported the highest growth rates in 2018, with Turkey reporting growth of 15 percent as it continued to recover from a sharp downturn after the 2016 failed coup.

Reporting by Andrea Shalal; editing by David Evans

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