Global tourism predicted to slow after best year ever

In this Nov. 12, 2017 photos, the "To Trains" sign in the Great Hall of Chicago Union Station directs passengers to loading platforms. (AP Photo/Paul Davenport)

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 Thursday that the sector was responsible for the creation of 7 million new jobs worldwide in 2017, or one in five new jobs.

That was due largely to the fact that the sector outperformed the global economy for the seventh year running, growing by 4.6 percent against 3 percent. The sector, according to the organization, 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 percent as a result of higher oil prices and airfares as well as expectations of rising interest rates in countries such as the U.S. and the U.K., it kept its long-term forecasts unchanged, with average annual growth of 3.8 percent 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.

"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.

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