Travel & Tourism Demand 2005

Personal Travel & Tourism

World: $2.8 trillion

U.S.: $862 billion

Business Travel

World: $672.5 billion

U.S: $173 billion

Visitor Exports

World: $895.8 billion

U.S.: $137.6 billion

Government Expenditures

World: $129.7 billion

U.S.: $28.7 billion

Total Consumption (subtotal)

World: $4.5 trillion

U.S.: $1.2 trillion

Capital Investment

World: $1 trillion

U.S.: $282 billion


World: $750.4 billion

U.S.: $94.6 billion

Government Expenditures (Collective)

World: $170.6 billion

U.S.: $74.7 billion



World: $6.5 trillion

U.S.: $1.7 trillion


Its difficult to conceptualize a sum as large as $6.5 trillion, so perhaps this will help put it in perspective: If every one of those dollars were a goldfish, and they were laid out in a row, head-to-tail, they would reach from Earth to Pluto and back six times!

Im sorry. I just made that up. Its completely untrue (I think). But it doesnt really matter how far a trail of 6.5 trillion goldfish will take you, because whether the measure is dollars or goldfish or hamburgers sold, you will not be able to wrap your mind around 6.5 trillion.

Lets try another futile exercise: Define the travel and tourism industries. Here at Travel Weekly, we say we cover the travel industry because we report cruise, tour, aviation, hospitality, car rental, theme park, casino, rail and destination marketing activity, as well as retail distribution and the technology that supports all of the above.

But we sure skimp on many activities and services travelers find important -- restaurant, theater and limousine services, to name a few -- and I cant recall any coverage we may have ever given to campgrounds, taxis, fudge shops (Im sorry, shoppes) or service stations, though they all figure prominently in many peoples vacations.

The World Travel and Tourism Council, which is holding its annual global summit in Washington this week, has done a reasonably good job of accomplishing the impossible: They have given some meaning to $6.5 trillion, and they have defined the travel industry in a way that reasonable people of all nations can agree upon. 

Before the WTTC developed a standard definition of the travel and tourism industries and a methodology for measuring their economic impact on the global economy ($6.5 trillion, if you havent guessed by now), nations tended to use different and incompatible methodologies that made comparisons and global estimates impossible.

Using standardized U.N.-sanctioned methodologies for modeling and forecasting, the WTTC is now able to produce what it calls harmonized results and forecasts for more than 174 countries around the world.

Or, as Bill Poling, Travel Weeklys news and opinion editor, summed it up for me: In other words, apples and apples.

The accompanying chart shows the breakdown for the world total, with comparable figures for the U.S. on the right.

Personal travel and tourism represents domestic spending on goods and services, such as transportation, lodging and meals, plus products related to travel, such as batteries, clothing, luggage, etc.

Visitor exports are the expenditures of foreign visitors, and government expenditures are the value of visitor services provided or subsidized by the worlds governments, such as art museums and national parks.

The bottom portion of the chart measures the components of demand.

Capital investment measures the cost of infrastructure borne by private companies and governments.

Exports would include a camera made in China and purchased by a tourist in France, as well as cruise ships or aircraft built in Europe for use in North America.

Finally, government expenditures (collective) are that portion of general or collective government services used by travelers and tourism providers, such as police and fire protection, sanitation services, etc.

The common wisdom about lies, damn lies and statistics may well hold true, but I find the aura of credibility -- and a little better understanding of what $6.5 trillion in economic impact represents for the worlds nations -- when I look at that chart.


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