The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) has just published its annual economic analysis, looking forward to 2009. After four years or strong growth, the WTTC are predicting that the global tourism economy will contract by 3.9% in 2009 and that will only expand by 0.3% in 2010. Long term, the WTTC still forecasts strong growth, with tourism’s contribution to world GDP rising to 19% ($10.5bn) by 2019.
These are sobering figures, reflecting the macro economic crisis and a clear indicator of the global nature of this structural shift in the world economy. The last great structural recession heralded the start of this era of capitalist globalisation, as governments and corporations grappled with how to respond to a period of falling profits and industrial change. For the tourism industry this involved the decline of many of the traditional mass tourism destinations and their replacement by new ones – we can see this in the emergence of the Mediterranean resorts – but the fallout from this period also saw the emergence of new forms of tourism such as urban tourism and eco-tourism.
This recession will be truely global, with no significant economies operating outside of the prevailing neo-liberal structures, meaning that every economy will feel the effects of the restructuring process. As with previous recessions however, these effects will not be spread evenly and there will be winners and loser in the tourism industry at the global level. The emerging tourism generating countries such as Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC) will become more important as the global balance of economic power shifts, prompting the world’s main tourism destinations to restructure to meet their needs. This is a process that has been going on for some time, slowly, but that will probably accelerate now. We may see currently popular destinations decline, especially those with a dependence on Western tourists. Conversely we should see new destinations emerge along with, potentially, new forms of tourist experience as the BRIC countries flex their tourist muscles in the long term.