Travel and tourism is the largest service industry globally in terms of gross revenue and foreign exchange earnings. It is also one of the largest employment generators in the world. It has been a major social phenomenon and is driven by social, religious, recreational, knowledge seeking and business interests and motivated by the human urge for new experience, adventure, education, and entertainment. Tourism is both cause and consequence of economic development. It has the potential to stimulate other sectors in the economy owing to cross-synergistic benefits and its backward and forward linkages.
Travel and tourism is one of the fastest-growing industries and a leader in many countries. It is expected to have generated around 9.4% of world GDP and 8.2% of total employment in 2009. The contribution of the industry to the global economy remains high despite a 4.38% decline in 2009. During the year, travel and tourism investment too declined by more than 12%.
International tourist arrivals rose from 682 million in 2001 to 920 million in 2008. The global travel and tourism industry experienced a downturn in 2009 due to the global economic and financial meltdown. The industry was affected by low business volumes and consumer confidence, given the uncertainty about factors such as availability of credit, exchange rates, employment, and the H1N1 virus. Consequently, tourist arrivals fell 4% worldwide in 2009. Nevertheless, tourist arrivals increased 2% in the last quarter of 2009, led by recovery in the Asia Pacific and the Middle East.