WTTC studies travel's economic impact on cities

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Las Vegas has the strongest job dependence on tourism, with 48.3% of city employment reliant on the sector.
Las Vegas has the strongest job dependence on tourism, with 48.3% of city employment reliant on the sector. Photo Credit: Checubus/Shutterstock

As the U.S. contends with its slipping share of the international travel market, a new report from the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) reveals that cities suffer more than non-urban areas from dips in visitation.

The City Travel and Tourism Impact report found that international visitor spending accounted for 45% of tourism spending across cities. In comparison, international visitor spending accounted for 29% of total visitor spending (combining urban and non-urban destinations).

"International visitor spending is often more important to cities than it is to countries as a whole," the report says, adding that "cities which are more reliant on international demand and/or particular source markets may be vulnerable to external disruptions." 

The report focused on 73 major cities that account for $691 billion in direct travel and tourism GDP, 25% of the travel sector's global total.

Macau and Cancun are most dependent on tourism overall, with about half of their respective economies directly supported by visitation, while in Marrakech and Las Vegas, 31% and 27% of city GDP, respectively, is directly generated by travel. Orlando was the fifth most tourism-dependent city at 19.8%. 

Las Vegas has the strongest job dependence on tourism, with 48.3% of city employment (234,000 jobs) reliant on the sector. Cancun took second place with 40.3% (161,000 jobs). 

Noting how important travel is to so many cities' economies, WTTC CEO Gloria Guevara said that "achieving sustainable growth in cities requires reaching far beyond the sector itself and into the broader urban agenda. … [Tourism] must be integrated into all aspects of a city’s planning agenda." 

The report also found that the cities with the highest direct travel and tourism growth over the past decade are in emerging and developing economies such as China, Turkey and Philippines, and most are in the Asia‐Pacific and Middle East regions. 

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