Global tourism predicted to slow in 2018 after best year ever


London - The travel and tourism sector is set for a modest slowdown in 2018 as a result of higher oil prices and airfares, a year after it experienced its best year on record, according to a leading global industry body.

In its annual Economic Impact Report, the World Travel and Tourism Council said on Thursday that the sector was responsible for the creation of 7 million new jobs worldwide in 2017, or one in five new jobs.

SEE: Hanekom: Tourism vulnerable to real SA challenges

That was due largely to the fact that the sector outperformed the global economy for the seventh year running, growing by 4.6% against 3%. The sector, according to the organisation, outperformed all others.

"2017 was the best year on record for the travel & tourism sector," said Gloria Guevara, president and CEO of the WTTC. "We have seen increased spending as a result of growing consumer confidence, both domestically and internationally, recovery in markets in North Africa and Europe previously impacted by terrorism and continued outbound growth from China and India."

Though the WTTC forecasts 2018 growth of 4% as a result of higher oil prices and airfares as well as expectations of rising interest rates in countries such as the US and the UK, it kept its long-term forecasts unchanged, with average annual growth of 3.8% over the next decade. By then, it expects the sector to support more than 400 million jobs globally, or one in nine of all jobs.

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"As our sector continues to become more important both as a generator of GDP and jobs, our key challenge will be ensuring this growth is sustainable and inclusive," Guevara said. "Already in 2017, we have begun to see a backlash against tourism in some key destinations."

So-called overtourism is imperiling cherished buildings, straining infrastructure and harming the experience of travelers and local residents alike. Tourism-phobia has become increasingly prevalent, particularly in European destinations such as Barcelona and Venice, where visitors crowd the same places at the same time. The WTTC is involved in efforts to spread tourists around destinations and smooth out demand over time.

Oxford Economics helped in the compilation of the report, which covers 185 countries.

SEE: As 'overtourism' swamps Amsterdam, Dutch capital pushes back

Tourism challenges in SA

Tourism in South Africa - and in Cape Town specifically - has been faced with many challenges but the economic opportunities remain far from exhausted. This is according to trends shared during Wesgro's annual Global Economic Opportunities for the Cape 2018/19 event, held on Tuesday, 20 March ahead of the start of the new financial year in April.

Key issues raised related to visas and ease of access for key source markets, diseases such as listeriosis that might not directly affect the industry but negatively impact perceptions of health and safety standards as well as the ongoing drought in the Western Cape. 

The current government focus on its land redistribution policy has also impacted on investor as well as visitor confidence to the country. 

Trends show the dominance of emerging markets when it comes to global growth, with six of the 10 fastest growing economies being in Africa.

Growth trends mirror the movements across the travel and tourism sector - with international tourism in Africa expected to grow robustly, as some 62 million international travellers visited the region in 2016, however with a nominal 2% growth to South Africa. 

WATCH: 6 Best and worst tourism videos around the world 

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