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Size of the LGBT Travel Market

The importance of the LGBT Travel Market


David Scowsill, WTTCDavid Scowsill, President & CEO, World Travel & Tourism Council Speech at IGLTA Global Convention – Chicago – 2nd May 2013.

Hello everyone. It is a pleasure to be with you today at the 30th annual IGLTA Global Convention. This is such a fantastic educational and networking event for the global LGBT tourism industry. Congratulations on reaching your 30 year milestone.

“Buenos días a todos, es un placer estar con ustedes en la Trigésima Convención Global de IGLTA. Este es un evento educacional y de networking fantástico para la industria global de LGBT. Felicidades por alcanzar un nuevo hito en la historia al cumplir sus 30 años.”

"The LGBT travel market in the United States alone is estimated to be over US $55 billion. Globally this sector currently has a value of around US$ 165 billion."

“Bom dia a todos, E com grande satisfação estar com vocês hoje na trigésima convênção anual de IGLTA Global. Este é um evento educativo e de Networking fantástico para a industria de turismo LGBT. Parabéns por chegar ao seu marco de 30 trinta anos.”

Thank you for inviting me. I am delighted to have been given the opportunity to address you today; to share with you the World Travel & Tourism Council’s insight into the importance and economic impact of the Travel & Tourism industry globally; to give you an overview of the key issues that we face, and the strategic priorities which WTTC members are focussing on, in order to make a real difference.

The LGBT sector is, without doubt, making a dynamic and influential contribution to to our global industry. The LGBT travel market in the United States alone is estimated to be over US $55 billion. Globally this sector currently has a value of around US$ 165 billion; and despite the effects of the worldwide economic financial turmoil of the last four years, your sector of the market is continuing to grow year on year.

The LGBT sector is viewed by marketers, tour operators, product development specialists and advertisers as a niche market. During the course of my presentation however I would like to show you how you are very much an integral part of the global travel & tourism family; how your growth story mirrors the positive growth story being experienced by Travel & Tourism worldwide; how many of the issues LGBT travellers face are much the same as any other traveller.

WTTC is renowned for the depth of our economic impact research, which assesses the total industry contribution to GDP, investment and jobs, across 184 countries in the world. So firstly, let’s take a look at that worldwide picture.

The LGBT sector grew by almost 10% in 2012 year on year - but you are not isolated in this respect. 2012 demonstrated again the resilience of the Travel & Tourism industry as a whole in the face of continued economic turmoil, even though economic growth slowed in emerging markets such as China and India, and there was negative or weakened growth in key global markets like the USA, Eurozone and UK.

"Our mission is for private and public sectors to work together to safeguard Travel & Tourism as a Force for Good in the future, bringing people together from different regions, different countries and different sexualities, generating a wider understanding of cultures and communities."

Travel is a way of life for a lot of people in this world, whatever their sexuality. Even in the toughest times, it continues to be a priority for populations around the world. Travel & Tourism drives economies and creates jobs. Even in challenging economic times, it still has the potential to grow, as consumer appetite for travel beyond national borders remains undimmed.

WTTC’s latest annual research shows that the Travel & Tourism industry grew by 3% in 2012,outperforming the global economy – growing faster than manufacturing, retail, financial services and communications.

The Travel & Tourism industry’s total economic contribution in 2012 - taking into account its direct, indirect and induced impacts - was US$ 6.6 trillion in GDP. This means Travel & Tourism represents 9% of global GDP.

Just as impressive is the number of people we employ. In 2012, the number of jobs in Travel & Tourism increased by five million to total 260 million. This means that for the first time, one in 11 of all jobs on the planet are supported by our industry.

9% GDP. 260 million people employed. One in 11 jobs.


International tourist arrivals grew by 4% in 2012 and in December the global travel and tourism industry reached a major milestone when we saw one billion people travel internationally for the first time.

Visitor exports – in other words spending globally by international tourists for both business and leisure trips - also exceeded expectations rising 4.7% year on year.

In 2013, despite a slowdown in growth rates across a range of industry indicators – such as international airline traffic, international arrivals, and hotel occupancy rates - global travel & tourism contribution to direct GDP is forecast to grow by a further 3% outpacing growth of the total global economy. Asia will continue to be the strongest travel & tourism region in 2013, but the Latin America region as a whole will also experience robust growth.

Looking even further ahead, the WTTC has already made a study of the global travel & tourism industry’s outlook for the next 10 years, and the message is loud and clear – Travel & Tourism will continue to drive economic growth, create jobs and generate prosperity.

Over the next 10 years, Travel & Tourism GDP is set to grow by 4.4% on average per year, outpacing growth in the wider economy and other industries, notably retail and public services.

By 2023, Travel & Tourism’s total economic contributions is forecast to account for 10% of global GDP, 10 .5 trillion US dollars, and 1 in 10 jobs. Total travel & tourism employment is forecast to increase by over 70 million jobs over the next decade, with two-thirds of those additional jobs in Asia.

Over the next ten years we will see a significant shift in terms of Travel & Tourism GDP from the mature to the newly emerged and emerging markets.


Asia will continue to lead growth of the global Travel & Tourism industry over the next decade, with annual average growth of over 6%, driven by increasing wealth among its middle classes.

By 2023, we forecast that China will overtake the United States as the world’s largest Travel & Tourism economy, measured in total GDP terms and the size of the outbound market. Take a moment to think about that – there will be more Chinese international tourists, than American international tourists in ten years’ time.
The world is changing dramatically. Global economies are shifting, populations are growing and aging, social classes are fluctuating, and the world’s wealth is being redistributed.

Travel and tourism is a force for good, but how do we facilitate the growth of our industry responsibly and sustainably without destroying our planet in the process.

How do we manage the growth in demand for international travel from the 2 billion new middle class consumers emerging from burgeoning economies such as China and India?

How do we prepare for the next 1 billion international travellers, crossing country borders each year.

WTTC has identified three key strategic priorities where support for Travel & Tourism is most crucial at a global level across all sectors.
-  Freedom to Travel
-  Policies for Growth
-  Tourism for Tomorrow

Let me explain briefly what each of these priorities is about, and how they are also relevant to the LGBT sector .


Firstly: Freedom to Travel – ensuring that all travellers can move around the world quickly, efficiently and with minimum ‘hassle’ is fundamental to Travel & Tourism. This means we need visa processes which are transparent, cost effective and streamlined.

China’s new middle class currently numbers around 130 million. During the next decade it may grow by a further 400 million. Surely they have the right to travel safely, securely and efficiently across international borders.

However, the visa issue is not just about China.

Despite an increasing number of visa waiver programmes around the world, too many people, whether gay or straight, find it too complex and too difficult to cross borders as international tourists. If someone from the Ukraine wants to obtain a Schengen visa to travel within the EU, they face a mountain of red tape and bureaucracy. American tourists still need a visa to enter Brazil. In India, whilst visa on arrival schemes have been set up for several nationalities, tourists from the UK, Europe, United States and Australia still need to apply for a visa before travelling.

WTTC made significant progress last year meeting heads of state and raising awareness of the economic benefits of the industry. For the first time ever, our industry was discussed at the G20 meeting last June in Mexico.

We undertook a joint study with UNWTO to determine the economic value and job creation potential of improvements in visa procedures and policies. The research showed that improvements within G20 countries could generate up to 112 million additional tourists, increase tourism receipts by up to US$ 206 billion and add 5 million jobs over three years. The findings were tabled at the meeting of the G20 Ministers of Tourism at the WTTC meeting in Mexico last year. The declaration from that meeting was submitted to the G20 Leaders. This was ground-breaking progress – and the result of a co-ordinated industry effort. It was the first time that Travel & Tourism had ever been included in the G20 World Leaders’ Declaration. Leaders are beginning to get the message.


We also gained vital recognition for our industry from President Obama, who finally understood that the US had lost $600bil income since 9/11, due to its restrictive visa policies. We must ensure that the issue of visa processing remains high on the administration’s agenda.

Our second strategic priority is: Policies for Growth – working with governments to ensure that the business environment is conducive to the growth of the industry. We are focussed on taxation and a regime which allows the private sector to be competitive – taxes which stimulate growth rather than thwart it.

Taxation is an issue for all tourists. It is an issue for LGBT sector holidaymakers just as much as it is for tourists all around the world. Taxation within the travel and tourism industry is rampant all over the world. Aviation tax and airport taxes are especially high – they affect everyone. In addition many countries levy hotel taxes, food & beverage taxes, even culture taxes, making travel more expensive and impacting tourists’ disposable income during their stay.

Governments need to stop taxing the tourist in order to boost treasury coffers. They need to stop viewing passengers and tourists as a revenue source and realise that they are a revenue generator.

In the UK, Air Passenger Duty is having a demonstrable dampening effect on the marketplace, with substantial negative consequences for the economies of long-haul destinations. Our research shows that if APD was abolished, it could result in a $6 billion increase in Travel & Tourism’s contribution to UK GDP. Our job is far from done on this issue. We will continue to lobby government to reduce the tax burden on our industry. Our mission over the next 12 months is to develop finance models which will demonstrate unequivocally, country by country, the negative economic impact on Travel & tourism of punitive taxation on travellers. This data will be used in our ongoing messaging to government leaders, that taxing the tourist do not lead to positive economic growth – in fact it leads to the opposite.


Our third priority is Tourism for Tomorrow - sustainable development of Travel & Tourism which ensures benefits for consumers, businesses, local people and the environment; finding the balance between people, planet and profits.

In 2013, the developed world owns nearly half of the planet’s wealth. By 2050 the world order of the major economies will be reversed. Populations will grow and people will live longer. In 2050 there will be 3 billion people enjoying middle class wealth.

What will it mean for the Travel and Tourism industry?

It will mean more consumers, enjoying more travel, creating more jobs and generating more GDP.

The message is clear going forwards: Travel & Tourism has a vital role to play in shaping the future of our planet, our society and our economies.

WTTC members are leading the way in climate change policy recommendations, carbon measurement initiatives and sustainability commitments at Board level, in order to meet the demands of projected consumer growth in Travel & Tourism.

The WTTC Tourism for Tomorrow Awards are one of the world's highest accolades in the Travel & Tourism industry. They are aimed at recognising best practice in sustainable tourism within the industry worldwide.

The world is a better place if people can travel, if they can experience and celebrate the immense diversity of our planet. Our industry will continue to make society richer by generating economic prosperity, encourage the mutual cooperation of nations.

Our mission is for private and public sectors to work together to safeguard Travel & Tourism as a Force for Good in the future, bringing people together from different regions, different countries and different sexualities, generating a wider understanding of cultures and communities.

Today it’s about the Freedom to Travel, and the influence of our Policies for Growth, But ultimately it is about ensuring we are the architects of a Tourism for Tomorrow.



A big 'thank you' to the IGLTA for sharing this speech with us.
You can see the original speech here >

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