Where does Travel & Tourism create the most jobs?

Travel & Tourism generates 10% of employment around the world. That’s 1 in every 10 jobs. Globally, 109 million people work directly in Travel & Tourism (equivalent to the population of South Korea and Italy combined) — not only as pilots, chefs, hotel staff, tour guides or on cruise ships, but as accountants, designers, and engineers for tourism companies, or supporting the industry with laundry services, food production or handicraft making. A further 183 million indirectly depend on the taxes and spending of these tourism employees for their jobs.

But around the world, the extent to which countries are dependent on tourism for job creation differs enormously. At the top of the list, Aruba in the Caribbean relies on the sector for 89% of its jobs. At the bottom, only 1.6% of employment in the mineral rich, inaccessible, and war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo is as a result of tourism activity.

WTTC’s recently published Travel & Tourism Economic Impact Report shows which countries are most heavily reliant on Travel & Tourism for job creation, with some unexpected results.

1. Islands: it is not surprising but the top ten list of countries dependent on Travel & Tourism for employment is dominated by islands, seven of which are in the Caribbean. The Indian Ocean destinations of Maldives and Seychelles are also in the list as is the gambling hotspot Macau. The economic importance of tourism to islands, particularly ‘small island developing states’ (as identified by the UN) cannot be underestimated, and in 2015 the UN itself highlighted the role of tourism to provide sustainable livelihoods in its ambitious Sustainable Development Goals.

2. Cambodia: With 26% of jobs (or 1 in 4) dependent on tourism, Cambodia is at #28 on the list and at the top of the South East Asia region (itself the fastest growing region in the world for tourism). It has perhaps less of a high profile than neighbours Thailand and Vietnam, but as the data shows, tourism is crucial to the incomes of the Cambodian people. Most famous for the stunning Angkor Wat temple (often cited as a case study for how not to develop tourism sustainably), the challenge for the country’s tourism sector is to ensure that the benefits are really shared across communities country-wide.

3. Albania: One of the real surprises, 24% of jobs (nearly 1 in 4) in Albania are as a result of tourism. For 50 years shut off from the outside world, even from fellow communist states, Albania is still not a high profile tourist destination. But as tourists search for the next undiscovered beach (check out the Albanian Riviera) or mountain (or the Albanian Alps), Albania’s undiscovered product is ever more appealing. With international chains still largely absent from most of the country, entrepreneurship is thriving and this means authenticity is a high point of Albania’s tourism.

4. New Zealand: Although more high profile as a destination than Albania, New Zealand depends on Travel & Tourism for a similar proportion of its employment. One in 4 jobs, or 584,000, are generated through tourism. Famously, New Zealand came to the world’s attention after the Lord of the Rings trilogy was filmed there and now it is enjoying popularity with the (relatively) close Chinese market. The sharing economy is gaining pace in New Zealand and this is a powerful generator of income through tourism across a wider population, although as in many other countries regulatory issues are posing a challenge to future growth.

5. Mexico: At the top of the G20 list, 17% of jobs (1 in 6) in Mexico are down to Travel & Tourism. Although the country is one of the world’s most visited (32 million international visitors in 2015, 9 in the world rankings) it also has a significant, and growing, domestic tourism sector. In 2016, 16% of tourism spend in Mexico was by Mexicans. Travel & Tourism has long been a priority of the Mexican government, who first identified the potential of the sector back in the 1970s with a masterplan that created the development of resorts such as Cancun and Acapulco. Since 1995, 3 million jobs have been created as a result of tourism.


It is clear that Travel & Tourism is vital to the survival and continued growth of many destinations around the world. WTTC continues to work with governments and wider society to ensure a better, thriving, and sustainable sector.

Learn more here: wttc.org

To search through our data, use our Data Gateway here: wttc.org/data

To read through our Economic Impact Research Country Reports, visit: https://www.wttc.org/research/economic-research/economic-impact-analysis/country-reports/