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Published: 24 May 2022

Travel & Tourism Development Index 2021: Rebuilding for a Sustainable and Resilient Future

Executive summary

Embeddinginclusivity, sustainability, and resilience into the Travel and Tourism sectors as it recovers will ensure it can continue to be a driver of global connectivity, peace, and economic and social progress.

The Travel & Tourism Development Index (TTDI) 2021 is an evolution of the 15-year-old Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index (TTCI) series, a flagship index of the World Economic Forum’s Platform for Shaping the Future of Mobility. This revised index serves as a strategic benchmarking tool for policy-makers, companies and complementary sectors to advance the future development of the Travel and Tourism (T&T) sector by providing unique insights into the strengths and development areas of each country/economy to enhance the realization of sector potential and growth. Furthermore, it serves as a platform for multistakeholder dialogue to understand and anticipate emerging trends and risks in global T&T, direct policies, practices and investment decisions, and accelerate new models that ensure the longevity of this important sector. The publication’s theme is “Rebuilding for a Sustainable and Resilient Future”. The COVID-19 pandemic has been one of the greatest challenges the T&T sector has faced, undermining not only the prosperity of businesses within the sector but also the well-being of tens of millions of employees, local communities and entire economies around the world. At the time of writing, the sector, and the world at large, is starting to assess the impact of the war in Ukraine. Global shocks such as this bring additional instability and economic disruption to the sector and could have long-term impacts on T&T development, as has happened with the pandemic. As the sector slowly recovers, it will be crucial that lessons are learned from recent and current crises and that steps are taken to embed long-term inclusivity, sustainability and resilience into the T&T sector as it faces evolving challenges and risks. In doing so, the sector can continue to be a driver of global connectivity, peace and economic and social progress. T&T development strategies will play an important role in accomplishing this. Accordingly, important changes have been made between the TTCI and the TTDI.

The TTDI benchmarks and measures “the set of factors and policies that enable the sustainable and resilient development of the T&T sector, which in turn contributes to the development of a country”. The transformation of the TTCI into the TTDI reflects the index’s increased coverage of T&T development concepts, including sustainability and resilience impact, on T&T growth and is designed to highlight the sector’s role in broader economic and social development as well as the need for T&T stakeholder collaboration to mitigate the impact of the pandemic, bolster the recovery and deal with future challenges and risks. Some of the most notable framework and methodology differences between the TTCI and TTDI include the additions of new pillars, including Non-Leisure Resources, Socioeconomic Resilience and Conditions, and T&T Demand Pressure and Impact.

The index is comprised of five subindexes (used for presentation and categorization purposes only), 17 pillars, and 112 individual indicators, distributed among the different pillars.

Top-line results

Relatively stagnant TTDI results reinforce the difficult situation the T&T sector faces. On average, TTDI scores increased by just 0.1% between 2019 and 2021, with only 39 out of 117 economies covered by the index improving by more than 1.0%, 51 increasing or decreasing within a 1.0% range and 27 declining by over 1.0%.

Japan tops the ranking for the 2021 TTDI index.
Japan tops the ranking for the 2021 TTDI index.
Source: unsplash.com

Aside from the United States (2nd), the top 10 scoring countries are high-income economies in the Europe and Eurasia or Asia-Pacific regions. Japan tops the ranking, with fellow regional economies Australia and Singapore coming in 7th and 9th, respectively. Meanwhile, Italy joined the top 10 (up from 12th in 2019) in 2021, while Canada slid out (10th to 13th). The remaining top 10 TTDI performers are Spain (3rd), France (4th), Germany (5th), Switzerland (6th) and the United Kingdom (8th). Viet Nam experienced the greatest improvement in score (+4.7%, 60th to 52nd) on the overall index, while Indonesia (+3.4%, 44th to 32nd) and Saudi Arabia (+2.3%, 43rd to 33rd) had the greatest improvement in rank. Meanwhile, Malaysia (-3.0%, 29th to 38th), India (-2.6%, 46th to 54th) and Mongolia (-2.1%, 76th to 84th) had the largest declines in ranking.

The key findings of the index show the following:

The need for T&T development has never been greater: The T&T sector is a major driver of economic development, global connectivity and the livelihood of some of the populations and businesses most vulnerable to, and hardest hit by, the pandemic. Therefore, supporting T&T development and recovery – which in turn will help the global recovery, build resilience and support all of those who depend on the sector for work – will be critical.

Italy joined the top 10 (up from 12th in 2019) in 2021.
Italy joined the top 10 (up from 12th in 2019) in 2021.
Source: unsplash.com

The T&T sector has faced difficult operating conditions, but shifting demand dynamics have created opportunities and a need for adaptation: In the shorter term, challenges such as reduced capacity, geopolitical tensions and labour shortages are slowing recovery. However, opportunities have been created in markets such as domestic and nature-based tourism, the rise of digital nomads and “bleisure”.1 The T&T sector stakeholders’ ability to adapt under these conditions highlights its capacity for adaptation and flexibility.

T&T development strategies can be employed to help the sector build back better: Amid the current challenges, shifting demand dynamics and future opportunities and risks, a more inclusive, sustainable and resilient sector can be – and needs to be – built. However, this calls for thoughtful and effective consideration. It also requires leveraging development drivers and strategies, including: restoring and accelerating international openness and consumer confidence, via, for example, improved health and security; building favourable and inclusive labour, business and socioeconomic conditions; focusing more on environmental sustainability; strengthening the management of tourism demand and impact; and investment in digital technology.

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