Travel and tourism accounted for one in five of all new jobs created globally in 2017, according to major industry research.

The travel and tourism sector continues to outperform the global economy after new figures showed another trend-busting year in 2017.

The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) reported growth of 4.6% for 2017, which is 50% higher than the rate achieved by the global economy as a whole.

It’s the seventh year in a row that travel and tourism has outperformed, with 2017 setting a faster pace than manufacturing (4.2%), retail and wholesale (3.4%), agriculture, forestry and fisheries (2.6%) and financial services (2.5%).

Robust job creation

The research showed that the industry was responsible for the creation of seven million new jobs worldwide — equivalent to one in five globally.

Overall, travel and tourism made a contribution of US$8.3 trillion to global GDP (10.4%) and was responsible for 313 million jobs, 1 in 10 jobs around the world.

WTTC president Gloria Guevara said: “In the last few years, Governments around the world are realising the extraordinary benefits of tourism.”

Long-term outlook

In terms of 2018, the WTTC thinks that the strong growth will continue, albeit at a slower rate than in 2017 as a result of higher oil prices.

The long-term outlook to 2028 remains unchanged, with average growth of 3.8% per year expected over the next decade. By then, travel and tourism is expected to support more than 400 million jobs globally — 1 in 9 of all jobs in the world.

Europe’s performance in 2017 was better than expected with 4.8% growth as long-haul demand recovered strongly. There was a strong rebound in North Africa, growing by 22.6% in 2017, while South East Asia rose 6.7%.

China continues to lead the way in Asia at 9.8%. Over the next ten years, the WTTC estimates that over one third of absolute GDP growth and nearly half of employment growth will be generated by China and India.

European river cruising is seeing a surge in popularity, driven by new vessels and itineraries targeting millennial passengers.

A different type of cruise experience along the rivers of Europe is helping to blow away the perception that these trips are the preserve of older generations.

In keeping with efforts to broaden the appeal of cruising, operators are serving up trips aimed at millennial and Generation Xers who want to visit Instagram or Snapchat-worthy rivers such as the Danube, Rhine or Rhone.

These more active trips combine scenery and city tours with activities such as rock climbing, while on board there are rooftop bars and international DJs.

‘Culturally enticing’

According to travel industry body ABTA, river cruising has become the fastest-growing sector of the worldwide cruise market, thanks partly to the introduction of new vessels and facilities to rival those found on ocean liners.

New arrivals include U by Uniworld, whose first cruises aimed at the 21 to 45 age group depart this spring. Billed as the best way to experience Europe, they promise a “full on, activity packed, culturally enticing immersive travel experience”.

Amadeus is another company going after the millennial market, with its six-day sailings in 2019 due to be hosted by a well-known person from social media.

Technology to match

But new initiatives in the river cruise market are not just aimed at millennials. For example, more cruises are being planned in 2018 to tap into the popularity of visiting Christmas markets along Europe’s Danube and Rhine rivers.

This broader range of activities explains why 14% of UK holidaymakers are planning on taking a cruise in 2018 — almost double the number that went on one in the previous 12 months. More than one in ten holidaymakers between the ages of 18-24 are planning a cruise this year, the ABTA research added.

But in order to appeal to the next generation of holidaymakers, cruise operators need to ensure they have the technology to match the scenery, which is why leading liners are investing heavily in lightning fast wi-fi across their fleets.

Holidaymakers are being enticed further afield as legacy airlines and newer carriers compete for business in the low cost, long-haul market.

The wider availability of budget flights means that travellers can now visit New York or even Singapore for the same price as a trip to the Mediterranean.

These broader horizons reflect a new battleground in mainstream air travel, with the Centre for Aviation reporting the launch of 15 long-haul low cost airlines between 2012 and last summer.

They include all three main European groups — Air France KLM, British Airways owner IAG and Lufthansa — as they bid to target millennial passengers, who are typically more focused on achieving value for money.

Fuel-efficient aircraft

The legacy airlines are keen to bridge the gap between budget and traditional carriers, with Air France recently launching Joon to serve a mixture of long and short haul destinations. The new operation sees flight attendants wear smart casual attire, while its aircraft have wi-fi on board and USB charging points.

The budget long-haul sector has just passed 500,000 weekly seats for the first time, although this still only represents about 0.5% of the global market.

But with fuel-efficient aircraft making longer journeys more attractive and comfortable, many low cost operators are planning rapid growth for 2018. Norwegian is starting direct flights from London Gatwick to Buenos Aires, while TUI has expanded its long-haul capacity with the addition of new aircraft.

Long-haul connections

The trends are being felt across the airline sector, prompting easyJet to launch a new booking platform so customers can connect to other low cost airlines flying from Gatwick to North and South America and the Far East.

Gatwick, which is easyJet’s largest base, is benefiting from this rising demand as it becomes one of the busiest long-haul low cost airports in the world. About 7.3 million passengers travelled long-haul from Gatwick in 2017, with its growth in this part of the market up by 16% year-on-year in December 2017.

It’s been 20 years since self-service kiosks arrived in airport departure halls. Now the latest versions are using biometrics and robotics to enhance the passenger experience.

Having first appeared as a trial for Air Alaska in 1997, self-service kiosks have evolved into much more than just a means for self-service check-in.

Now airside as well as landside, they can be used for bag tagging, lost baggage tracking, flight transfers, and border control. They are also a way to pay for flights, upgrades, meals, and even media downloads for the flight.

But SITA, which provides IT and telecommunications services to the air transport industry, says there’s much more to come from its kiosk technology.

Facial scanning

Soon passengers will be able to use kiosks that capture their biometrics via a facial scan at the first touch point in the journey.

Once checked against the passenger’s travel documents, a secure single token is created. Whether it’s at self bag drop, at border control or aircraft boarding, facial scanning removes the need to show a passport or boarding card.

The system also integrates with government systems and databases, allowing integrated immigration and border checks. Air New Zealand passengers were the first to use the SITA technology in a trial at Brisbane Airport in March.

Robotic kiosks

As well as the first walkthrough airport experience, SITA is working on kiosks that can be deployed where and when they are needed most.

This is particularly important during periods of disruption when additional kiosks may be needed airside to check in large numbers of rebooked passengers.

That’s resulted in the creation of KATE, an intelligent, robotic check-in kiosk that will give airports and airlines much greater flexibility. Multiple robotic kiosks can be automatically or manually deployed simultaneously and in formation to help passengers.

Rico Barandun, portfolio director at SITA, said IT has changed air travel out of all recognition: “The humble kiosk has been a key part of that change, and it is now evolving further. So next time you see a handful of kiosks moving by themselves around the airport, don’t be surprised.”

Responsible tourism is now a big consideration for holidaymakers, fuelled by programmes such as David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II.

One of the big themes identified in ABTA’s Travel Trends Report for 2018 is the growing role that responsible tourism plays in shaping holiday choices.

ABTA research shows that almost 70% of people believe that travel companies should ensure their holidays help the local people and economy.

This rise in sentiment follows wildlife documentaries such as David Attenborough’s ‘Blue Planet II’ — the most watched programme of 2017 — and campaigns including Sky News’ Ocean Rescue Scheme. Greater public awareness also extends to human rights and working conditions.

Animal welfare

Tour operators, hoteliers and destinations have made positive progress on responsible tourism, with ABTA expecting more initiatives to follow in 2018.

These are likely to include social enterprise projects which give back to local communities, carbon-neutral group tours and the banning of plastics from beaches.

The welfare of animals in tourism has also become a mainstream issue, with Thomas Cook committing to removing animal excursions such as elephant rides and swimming with dolphins from their activities list.

Virgin Holidays also announced it will no longer sell or promote any new attractions or hotels that feature captive whales and dolphins.

Destinations to watch

Elsewhere in the travel trends report, ABTA paints a positive outlook for the  tourism industry in 2018. It quotes GfK figures showing summer demand up 5% on last year, with people booking early in order to take advantage of discounts and ensure they get their choice of destination or resort at the right price.

Three-in-ten also say they plan to spend an increased amount on travel, up 6% from last year, while it also appears there’s an increased willingness to prioritise holidays over eating out and entertainment.

ABTA also named its 12 ‘destinations to watch’ in 2018. They have been chosen for their ease of accessibility for British tourists or because they are a well-known destination with hidden gems.

They are Argentina, Arizona, British Columbia, Germany, Malta, Montenegro, Nepal, New Zealand, Rwanda, St Lucia, Sweden and Turkey.

Some popular tourist destinations are victims of their own success as “overtourism” starts to become a real problem.

Mass tourism brings many benefits, but for crowded cities such as Amsterdam and Venice the sheer number of visitors is now an issue requiring action.

A report by Euromonitor ranking the top 100 City Destinations on behalf of World Travel Market London has revealed the overcrowding hotspots and highlighted the fine line between successful tourism and overtourism.

For example, Amsterdam has 850,000 residents but last year attracted 6.34 million visitors. This figure is expected to have grown by 3.6% to 6.57 million in 2017 and may rise again to 6.8 million in 2020 and 7.5 million in 2025.

Low-spending visitors

Officials in the Dutch capital are now considering plans to charge tourists an extra 10 euros a night as part of a drive to dissuade low-spending visitors, including younger tourists and those on stag weekends.

Amsterdam’s city councillor responsible for finance, Udo Kock, said: “We need more people who actually spend money in the city.”

In Venice, there’s a growing campaign among residents to restrict cruise visits following a huge influx of tourists. The UNESCO World Heritage Committee has expressed ‘extreme concern’ about the impact of tourism on Venice’s historical sites and in May it threatened to put Venice on its danger list.

Daily passenger limit

The Greek island of Santorini, which was visited by 790,000 cruise ship passengers in 2015, has already introduced a daily limit of 8,000 disembarkations. There have also been protests in some Spanish resorts and cities about the impact of private holiday rentals on the housing market.

This resulted in authorities on the Balearic Islands recently placing a cap on the number of beds that can be used for tourists.

World Travel Market London director Simon Press said: “Tourism is important to local and national economies and many destinations have worked hard to attract visitors over the years.

“Yet some are now becoming victims of their own success and overtourism is starting to become a real problem.”

 

The travel industry is successfully fighting back against fraudsters after a recent surge in fake holiday sickness claims.

The bogus illness epidemic threatening to drive up holiday prices looks to be under control after tour operators adopted a hard-line approach.

Thomas Cook said it has seen the rate of claims decline dramatically, having stepped up its monitoring processes and taken legal action against fraudsters.

High-profile court cases, which included the jailing of a couple for 15 months, seem to have acted as a powerful deterrent to potential scammers.

In one case, Jet2Holidays released copies of the claimants’ bar bill to the media, which showed they carried on drinking heavily on the days they were ‘sick’.

Loophole in the law

ABTA said the fake claims meant higher prices and less choice for honest holidaymakers. It added that such claims have risen by 500% since 2013 whilst reported sickness levels have remained stable.

The travel organisation’s #StopSicknessScams campaign has lobbied the Government to address the loophole in the law which allows companies to unduly profit from false holiday sickness claims.

ABTA said: “It is crucial that the Government brings in new rules which control legal costs on holiday sickness claims as soon as possible.”

In contrast to the UK, Thomas Cook reports that it has not received any fake claims from customers in Germany.

Hotel industry cost

Some Spanish hoteliers have even threatened to close their doors to British customers as a result of the crisis, which has cost the local tourism industry millions of euros.

However, a report presented at the recent World Travel Market (WTM) in London suggested that the crackdown in the UK was paying off as nine out of ten holidaymakers reported that they hadn’t been contacted by claims firms.

WTM London’s Paul Nelson, said: “Fake sickness claims by unscrupulous holidaymakers, encouraged by claims firms, give Brits a bad name and make things worse for those who genuinely fall ill abroad.”

The number of foreign holidays by UK residents has surged 68% in the past 20 years as mini-breaks replace the traditional two-week holiday.

A review of holiday trends since the mid-1990s has revealed just how much low-cost airlines have changed our holiday habits and choice of destinations.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) recorded more than 45 million foreign holidays by UK residents in 2016, compared with 27 million in 1996. The rise of 68% contrasts with a 12% increase in the UK population in the same period.

The one-week holiday is now much more popular than before, the ONS said, with 11 million seven-day breaks in 2016 against just under six million in 1996. Trips of two weeks declined from five million to below four million last year.

Cruise popularity

The rise of low-cost airlines has meant France is one of the few countries Britons are visiting less than in 1996, following a fall of 9%.

Rather than driving to France on a ferry, tourists are opting for a cheap flight elsewhere, with the number of holidays to Spain rocketing by 87% in 20 years.

Germany has joined the top 10 destinations for UK holidaymakers, while another new entry is cruising – now four times as popular as it was 20 years ago.

This could be due to an ageing population, but cruise operators are also trying to extend their appeal to younger holidaymakers too.

Fewer day trips

Journeys across the English Channel to stock up on alcohol and cigarettes — booze cruises — are no longer as cost-efficient as they used to be, which is why UK residents are making far fewer day-trips abroad than they did 20 years ago.

In fact, the number of holidaymakers travelling by sea has declined by 33% since 1996.

In contrast, figures from the Civil Aviation Authority show passenger numbers at UK airports have increased by 85%, from 135 million in 1996 to 251 million in 2015.

Destinations now much more popular than in 1996 include the United Arab Emirates, Poland, Romania, Croatia and Iceland. The biggest falls were countries that have experienced terrorist incidents and security concerns in recent years — Turkey, Egypt, Kenya and Tunisia.

The jaw-dropping cost of falling ill abroad has been revealed by insurers, providing a stark reminder about the perils of uninsured travel.

With six-figure medical bills now far from uncommon, the insurance industry has disclosed just how much it costs to help the 150,000 Britons who fall seriously ill overseas every year.

One claim for treating a stroke in the United States cost £768,000 — the equivalent of working over 25 years on an average UK salary. In another case, a jet-ski accident in Turkey amounted to £125,000.

The research from the Association of British Insurers (ABI) shows that the cost of the average medical claim at £1,300 has risen by 40% between 2011 and 2016.

Medical evacuation

The US, which attracts 3.8 million visitors from the UK every year, has some of the highest medical costs.

Other cases there have included £252,000 to treat a brain haemorrhage and broken shoulder suffered by a traveller when he fell off a bicycle. There was also £32,000 to pay for a four day hospital stay to treat a 12 year-old girl who caught pneumonia on a school trip.

Elsewhere in the world, travel insurers paid £136,000 for a policyholder who suffered complications after an insect bite in Chile. This included paying for a nurse to escort the traveller home.

In situations where medical evacuation is necessary, the ABI points out that an air ambulance from Majorca, for example, costs more than £25,000.

Insurance guide

Having the free European Health Insurance Card will provide access to state-provided healthcare but it is no substitute for travel insurance as it will not cover all medical costs, or the cost of emergency repatriation.

An estimated one in four travellers still go without insurance, despite the fact that the average cost of a single trip policy can be less than what a family spends on snacks at the airport.

The ABI has launched a new guide to help travellers understand the importance of getting the right cover, including access to assistance if the worst does happen.

Anti-tourism protests in some popular Spanish resorts and cities over the summer have focused attention on the private holiday rentals sector.

Tourism is the lifeblood of Spain’s Balearic Islands, with more than 3.5 million visitors from the UK alone to Majorca, Minorca, Ibiza and Formentera in 2016.

But this rising level of demand has sparked isolated protests and discontent among locals. They complain they are being priced out of the housing market, fuelled by the explosion in number of apartments used as private holiday rentals.

In an effort to appease residents, authorities on the islands recently announced a cap of 623,624 on the number of beds that can be used for tourists, a figure they anticipate could be reduced by a further 120,000 in subsequent years.

Tourism numbers

Significantly, the controversial new rules require home owners to obtain a special licence before they rent out their apartments using websites such as Airbnb and Homeaway. Fines of up to 400,000 euros could be imposed for those who breach the new regulations.

Airbnb hit back at the move, arguing it played into the hands of the big hotel chains who will be able to increase prices as a result. It said it wanted to help spread tourism benefits to the many, ”not keep them in the hands of a few.”

Travel association Abta said the situation in Spain and rapid growth of the peer-to-peer economy presented issues for the wider travel industry, particularly in  terms of understanding tourism numbers and capacity.

Licensed and regulated

Historically, hotels and other accommodation providers have been licensed and regulated, which helps local authorities to monitor the volume and nature of visitors coming into their cities.

Abta said this was not so easy to do in the current market: “We need mechanisms in place to manage numbers in crowded destinations, for the benefit of holidaymakers, destination residents and the travel industry.

“Logically, these measures would need to take account of both hotel visitors, and peer to peer accommodation users.”