Misleading WTTC reports

WTTC (World Travel & Tourism Council), a lobby group for the travel business, has published a series of comprehensive reports* for selected markets – some measures comparable, some not.


Unfortunately, the group is so careless in its presentations that the professional observer is sometimes left to guess what WTTC’s research shows. We believe its presentations are in contrast with the professionalism of its research.


As a result, the following is our (abridged) list of WTTC’s findings, with comments where necessary.


(Note: WTTC mainly uses the awkward term ‘travel and tourism’*, which we change to the more-practical ‘travel business’*, abbreviated here to TB. Data for 2017, unless noted otherwise.)


[] World.

-TB turnover +4.6%. Visitor spend +4.3%. GDP growth a WTTC-rounded +3%.


[] North Africa.

-TB turnover (overall GDP, TB’s share of GDP): +22.6%; Egypt US$21.1bn +72.9% (+4.1%, 11.0%); Tunisia US$5.7bn +7.6% (WTTC-rounded +2%, 14.2%); Turkey US$98.4bn WTTC-rounded +17% (+7.0%, 11.6%). Note Turkey is part in Europe, part in Asia (Minor), which is sometimes a reason for including it in the Middle East. Including it in North Africa is incorrect.

-‘…well on track to return to pre-crisis levels’. Without a date, this is meaningless commentary; it was on that track the moment the TB stopped falling.


[] Australia.

-TB turnover (overall GDP): US$156bn/A$197.5bn +2.3% (+2.2%).


[] Canada.

-TB turnover (overall GDP): US$108bn/C$138.8bn +4.5% (a WTTC-rounded +3%). In a separate report, WTTC puts growth as +5.5%.


[] China.

-TB turnover +9.8%.


[] France.

-TB 50% faster than world average. Wrong? The same report showed that this was a comparison with the visitor business, not the overall TB.

-Visitors to France spent US$54.7bn (at US$1 to €0.81) +6.4%.

-TB turnover US$252.2bn, an 8.9% share.


[] Germany.

-TB turnover US$429.8bn +1.7%.


[] India.

-Forecast to overtake Germany as #3 by 2028.


[] Indonesia.

-TB turnover US$57bn/Rph787.1tn +6.4%; overall GDP +5.1%.

-Forecast +6.4% annual average growth rate 2018-27.


[] Italy.

-TB turnover (overall GDP): US$275.6bn +2.7%, a WTTC-rounded 13% share (+1.6%).

-Visitor spend US$48.9bn +6.5%.


[] Japan.

-TB turnover (overall GDP): US$350bn/¥37.1tn +3.4% (+1.6%).

-Forecasts 40mn visitors in 2020. Not clear if this is a WTTC forecast or a restatement of Japan’s government’s target.


[] Saudi Arabia.

-TB turnover (overall GDP): US$64bn/R240.9bn +4.6% (a WTTC-rounded +1%), a 9.4% share of GDP.


[] Spain.

-TB turnover a WTTC-rounded +7%.


[] UK.

-TB turnover (overall GDP): US$297bn/a-WTTC-rounded-£214bn +6.2% (+1.5%).

-Visitors +6.7%, outbound travellers +2.5% (+7.8% 2016, +9.9% 2015), domestic travellers +5.8%, spend by visitors to UK +7.9%, spend by domestic travellers +5.8%.


[] US.


-TB turnover (overall GDP): US$1.5tn +2.3% world’s largest (same, +2.3%).


-WTTC has its own methodology for calculating the turnover of the travel business including not just inbound, outbound, and domestic travel, but other industries involved in the business. For instance, if 0.5% of the world’s cars go into the car-rental business, that measure will be calculated into the turnover of the overall travel business.


Unfortunately, WTTC is not always clear that its data is related to this grand total, and often its commentary appears to be related to just one sector – often, the inbound visitor business. In addition, it sometimes uses the terms ‘travel’ or ‘tourism’ alone; we cannot always determine if these mean something different from ‘travel & tourism’.


WTTC’s name does not help – the ‘TT’ is ‘travel & tourism’, where we would define ‘travel’ as covering all segments of the travel business, with ‘tourism’ meaning ‘leisure travel’ to most observers – just one segment. This means that most people and bodies the WTTC lobbies may think they are discussing just inbound leisure travel.


-Most US$ figures are our conversions from WTTC figures.


A report on this topic in our Travel Business Analyst newsletter contains some important additional information, qualification, and analysis.



WTTC Research Director Rochelle Turner responds:

The methodology that WTTC uses aligns to the UN a statistical Methodology for accounting for Travel & Tourism (TSA RMF:2008).  

The definition of the sector from the TSA RMF:2008 is as follows: ‘the activity of persons travelling to and staying in places outside of their usual environment for not more than one consecutive year for leisure, business and other purposes not remunerated from within the place visited’. 

Our approach has been independently audited and is fully available for view on our website, All country regions are fully explained on the final pages within each country report. 


The Fox

Remember, I’m an industry expert in the parallel world.


*Fox – sly.  Trots – left-leaning (Trotsky) plus its more insalubrious meaning.

Foxtrots – leading the industry in a dance.