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What's hot and what's not for travel and tourism this year?

Joy and Sadness from Inside Out during the "Better Together: A Pixar Pals Celebration!" parade inside Disney California Adventure in Anaheim, Calif, on Wednesday, April 24, 20
Joy and Sadness from Inside Out during the "Better Together: A Pixar Pals Celebration!" parade inside Disney California Adventure in Anaheim, Calif, on Wednesday, April 24, 20 Copyright Jeff Gritchen/️Orange County Register/SCNG
Copyright Jeff Gritchen/️Orange County Register/SCNG
By Indrabati Lahiri
Published on
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Travel and tourism levels across the world are expected to jump back to pre-pandemic levels in 2024, according to a report on tourism and travel from the World Economic Forum.

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The United States and Spain have bagged the top two positions for this year, with developing economies such as China, Brazil, Indonesia and Turkey also making significant progress, according to the WEF report.

The report, published in conjunction with the University of Surrey, ranked 119 countries according to their policies for supporting travel and tourism.

There had been improved demand in developed economies across the world over the past year, especially in traditionally popular tourism destinations such as the United States and Spain, it said.

Developing economies such as China have also seen a significant increase in tourism numbers this year, while the Middle East has seen tourism levels jump to about 20% above pre-pandemic levels. Africa, Europe and the Americas also showed considerably high recovery rates of around 90% last year.

What are the top 10 countries for travel and tourism in 2024?

The United States and Spain topped the 2024 edition of the TTDI report, along with Japan, France, Australia, Germany, the United Kingdom, China, Italy and Switzerland.

Referring to European and Eurasian destinations, it said: "Europe has consistently held its position as the top performing region in the TTDI, outperforming the global average across most pillars, with 34 of its ranked economies scoring above the index average.

Italy's economy has been lifted by tourism
Italy's economy has been lifted by tourismLuca Bruno/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved

"As one of the most economically developed regions in the world, Europe provides the best enabling environments for the travel and tourism sector, including conductive business, safety and hygiene conditions, quality human resources and labour markets, and well-developed ICT infrastructure."

Key developing countries such as China, Brazil, Indonesia and Turkey have also made significant strides, making their way to the top 25% of the countries surveyed and ranked. Currently low to upper middle income countries constitute 70% of the countries showing advancements in travel and tourism scores since 2019.

Amongst regions, sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) regions have made significant strides, with the UAE and Saudi Arabia seeing some of the most progress.

What challenges does the travel sector continue to face?

Although travel and tourism numbers this year are likely to look distinctly more upbeat, several challenges remain. Among them, underinvestment is a concern, with more strategic investment needed to plug tourism development gaps between developing and developed economies, the report said.

Other challenges include continued high inflation and rising interest rates in several parts of the world, leaving consumers with less disposable income to spend on perceived luxuries such as travel.

Geopolitical instability in regions such as the Middle East, as well as raging conflicts such as the Russia-Ukraine and Israel-Palestine war have also affected tourism. 

The airline industry has also suffered setbacks with higher airfares and problems with Boeing planes that led to delivery delays and flight routes being cancelled. 

Tourism moves into the world of sustainability

The tourism sector has faced increased pressure from consumers and investors over sustainability practices. In some cases, this has meant the need for providers to make their facilities more environmentally friendly. Eco-tourism, where sustainability is key, is booming. 

Eco-tourism is increasing in popularity
Eco-tourism is increasing in popularityAP Photo

Conversely, other firms which may already have been struggling to adapt, may be further seeing a decrease in revenues and interest because they have not been quick enough to transition. 

One of the ways the travel gap between developing and developed countries could  be bridged, the report suggests, is by taking advantage and promoting the cultural and natural attractions of developing countries which, in turn, will draw in more tourists. 

Francisco Betti, head of the global industries team at the World Economic Forum, said on publication of the report: "This year marks a turning point for the travel and tourism sector, which we know has the capacity to unlock growth and serve communities through economic and social transformation.

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"The TTDI offers a forward-looking window into the current and future state of travel and tourism for leaders to navigate the latest trends in this complex sector and sustainably unlock its potential for communities and countries across the world."

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