When they met last week in Los Cabos, Mexico, the G20 world leaders for the first time recognized travel and tourism as drivers of jobs, growth and economic recovery.
They did so in the Leaders' Declaration, issued each year at the conclusion of the G20 Summit. In what is considered a major win for the global travel industry, this year's declaration states, "We recognize the role of travel and tourism as a vehicle for job creation, economic growth and development, and, while recognizing the sovereign right of States to control the entry of foreign nationals, we will work towards developing travel facilitation initiatives in support of job creation, quality work, poverty reduction and global growth."
The G20 announcement builds upon President Barack Obama's national travel and tourism strategy, which sets a goal of welcoming 100 million international visitors each year by the end of 2021, to be accomplished by improving visa entry processes.
According to research from the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) and the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), G20 economies could boost their international tourist numbers by an additional 122 million, generate an extra $206 billion in tourism exports and create over 5 million additional jobs by 2015 by improving visa processes and entry formalities.
"We commend the G20 world leaders for recognizing the importance of travel and tourism as a driver of economic growth and job creation for the first time and stand ready to support all efforts by the G20 countries in this respect," UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai and WTTC President and CEO David Scowsill said in a joint statement. "This is a significant success for the industry … By facilitating visas, the G20 countries stand to gain 5 million jobs at a time of rampant unemployment across the world. These are in addition to the hundreds of millions of direct and indirect jobs already being supported every day by the sector."
The U.S. Travel Association similarly commended the Leader's Declaration. "The U.S. travel industry applauds the G20 leaders … for recognizing the vital role travel plays in economies throughout the world," said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow. "Policies that facilitate travel facilitate economic growth."