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JustClick Travel is the place to find travel industry stats, facts and figures. On the right you'll find country profiles providing information about the tourism industry, popular destinations, attractions and holidaying.
Key facts and figures about the worldwide travel industry
Travel has become a thriving industry that is being increasingly regulated in order to protect the interests of travellers and business people. In the UK alone, there are more than 200,000 firms involved in the travel industry. At global level, the travel sector grew by 4 per cent during 2012, generating revenues worth more than $1 trillion.
Tourist expenditure is also on the rise, and in fact, many countries rely heavily on the income generated by travel in order to support their local economies. This is the case of the Caribbean island-nations of Antigua, St Lucia, and the Bahamas, and also of the Cook Islands, Pala, Cyprus, Luxemburg, Malta, Croatia, Lebanon, and Greece.
Approximately 9 per cent of the combined global GDP is generated by this industry.
Europe is the world's most visited region, although the Asia-Pacific region is experiencing the highest growth levels (currently 7 per cent every year).
Air travel accounts for 52 per cent of all trips, followed by road travel (40 per cent), sea travel (6 per cent), and rail travel (2 per cent).
According to the World Health Organisation, at any given moment in time there are at least half a million people travelling by plane.
One out of every 11 jobs in the world are in the travel industry, and more than 1 billion people travelled during 2012.
The nature of travel has changed over the centuries. Whereas once travelling was essential in order to obtain supplies, nowadays travel is considered mostly a leisure activity that is available to a large segment of the global population.
The development of the travel industry: from the 18th century to today
Although people travelled before the 18th century, it was not until that time when travel as such began to emerge as a distinct economic activity. Over the centuries, the reasons why people travelled evolved from being a necessity in order to secure food and shelter to becoming a leisure activity. In its initial stages, travel was only available to a very limited number of people (usually wealthy families and members of the aristocracy), who had sufficient means to undertake what at the time was an expensive endeavour.
The development of the travel industry was closely linked to colonialism, so it is not surprising that global travel as an industry appeared during the golden age of the European colonial period. The first major travel destinations were often remote European colonies, such as the Dutch East Indies (nowadays Indonesia), Ceylon (Sri Lanka), French Indochina (Cambodia and Laos), Morocco, the islands of Polynesia and the Caribbean, Australia, New Zealand, Egypt, and South Africa.
The first travel company to be established was Cox & Kings, which was founded in 1758 in England. By the early 19th century, the company was generating revenues worth more than £300,000 a year, and it soon opened offices in India, Egypt, and Burma (Myanmar). Cox & Kings continued to expand its operations as consumer demand rose, and today the company has offices in Asia, the Middle East, Europe, North America, and Australia.
After that point in time, there were a number of factors contributing to the development of the travel industry as we know it today. We must remember that during the early 18th century roads were in poor condition, air travel was non-existent, and the first railways were being built. In addition to being expensive and unaffordable to the majority of people, travel was also uncomfortable and wearisome. However, the growth of the global transport network made it much easier to get to remote destinations and contributed greatly to turning travel and tourism into popular leisure activities.
For example, English entrepreneur Thomas Cook capitalised on the advantages offered by the rail network and began to offer package holidays by train in 1841. The first trips took place in Leicestershire, and soon the company was running all-inclusive excursions to France, Switzerland, Italy, the United States, and Egypt.
At the same time, other business people took advantage of the possibilities offered by cruise ships and started to offer overseas trips to selected destinations in the Mediterranean, such as Malta, Gibraltar, and Greece. This was the case of the Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company (which today is known as P&O Ferries), and of White Star Lines, which offered trips across the Atlantic between Europe and North America.
The appearance of air travel was another factor that helped shape the travel industry. The first commercial flight took place in 1914 and linked two Florida towns. The new travel venture was so successful that tickets were sold out four months in advance. This laid out the foundations of the modern travel industry, which in our day is characterised by offering mass travel thanks to technological advances and an extensive global transportation network.