At both global and national scales, tourism is the fastest-growing economic sector today. Here are some basic fact about the tourism industry to highlight its importance, and impacts:
In 1998, it accounted for over 10 per cent of the world GNP and directly or indirectly for 200 million jobs worldwide.
In 2000, 700 million people visited a foreign country - 62% of them for leisure ? accounting for US$ 478 billion of international receipts/revenues.
Tourism is one of the five top export categories for 83% of countries, and the main one for 38% of them.
Tourism employs 3% of the total global workforce (8% if indirect/informal jobs are included, or one in every 12 workers).
In France, the world's number-one tourism destination, tourism accounts for over 7% of GDP.
For many coastal, tropical, developing countries, tourism plays an important role in the economy often representing the major source of employment, foreign exchange earnings, and national government revenue. The World Tourism Organisation has estimated that tourism receipts account for some 25 percent of total export earnings in the Pacific and over 35 percent for Caribbean islands. However, much of the income generated by tourism does leak back to developed countries (30-50 percent in the Caribbean), mostly to foreign air carriers, hotel owners and suppliers of imported food and beverages. Tourism is mainly a natural resource based industry and, as such, affects air, land and water and can damage natural systems if its planning, development and operation are not properly managed. On the other hand, if developed sustainably, tourism can be a positive force for conservation and environmental protection.