Skift Take

International visitors are definitely attractive for the cash they're willing to drop on travel but destinations' domestic markets often have much more spending power and shouldn't be slighted.

The World Travel & Tourism Council projects the world will welcome nearly 1.8 billion international visitor arrivals per year by 2025, a 58% increase from the 1.1 billion international arrivals who crossed borders in 2014.

These international tourists will certainly contribute to a travel industry experiencing faster growth than the wider global economy but the money tourists spend in their own countries continues dwarfing that of international tourists traveling abroad. This reality has long defined visitor spending in destinations and the status quo won’t see significant changes in the near future, the World Travel & Tourism Council projects.

Considering global domestic travel spending made up 72% of travel and tourism’s contribution to global GDP last year, the organization released forecasts this week which point to domestic travel spending growing slightly faster than foreign visitor spending in 2015, 3.7% vs. 2.8% and accounting for $3.7 trillion and $1.4 trillion, respectively, of the world’s total GDP.

The global dollar amount for annual domestic tourist spending will still be more than double what foreign visitor spending claims by 2025 even with the number of international travelers soaring. Look no further than the U.S. to verify this: The country will receive nearly 129 million international arrivals a year by 2025 (71% increase from 2014) although its percentage of foreign visitor spending currently runs lower than the global average (20%).

Domestic U.S. travelers will spend more than $1 trillion a year by 2025 and trounce the $279.4 billion international visitors will spend in the U.S. This means destinations should realize the spending power of their local markets.

For the first time the organization also projects China’s travel industry will represent a larger percentage of its overall GDP than the U.S. travel industry will contribute to U.S. total GDP. A decade from now the U.S. would still dominate international visitor arrivals but China will be close behind — a difference of only six million visitors and its domestic market will be even more robust, said David Scowsill, president and CEO of the World Travel & Tourism Council.

“The difference between the two countries really comes down to the advanced planning the Chinese government puts in place,” said Scowsill. “They’re currently building nine new airports so that all Chinese citizens will live within a 90 minute drive of the nearest airport. States’ investments in travel and tourism are larger overall in Asia than in Europe.”

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Tags: tourism, wttc

Photo credit: Tourists pose in Time Square before the New Year's Eve ball drops. Ed Yourdon / Flickr

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