The Largest Industry In The World
Everyone loves to travel. With the advent of mass tourism in the late 20th century, Travel & Tourism
is estimated to have overtaken oil as the largest single industry in the world. The sector employs
over 10 per cent of the global workforce and represents over 10 per cent of global GDP.
With some 700 million international air trips alone per year worldwide, and growth rates typically
compounding at a rate of 3 - 7 per cent per annum, it is not difficult to foresee the pressure that
travel industry growth will place on the environment in the 21st century. Hotels, resort developments,
airports and aircraft, cruise ships, theme parks and car rental fleets will all compete for space and
will impact on local resources and biodiversity, often in the world's most beautiful places.
Indeed, forecasts indicate that the industry may double
in size again in the next ten to twenty years alone. This estimate may be conservative should China,
population c. 1.3 billion, continue to emerge from behind the traditional barriers of their closed society to
become the next new force in world tourism.
"The Brent Spar Syndrome"
In the early days of the UK's North Sea oil exploration, an installation such as The Brent Spar was
regarded as a symbol of potential wealth and national virility.
But, as Shell found out, media and consumer attention is now increasingly focused on the
impact of large industries on the environment. In recent years, as globalization has progressed,
this focus has broadened to cover sustainability and corporate social responsibility.
Agenda 21 of the Rio Summit on the environment called on us all to "think globally and act locally" to
work across society and with communities to preserve the planet for future generations.
Beyond the altruism of the 'green' and social issues, this presents the travel industry
with a commercial imperative to think ahead, avoiding the consumer/PR backlash which, as Shell
found with the Brent Spar, can suddenly turn a positive, aspirational product into a symbol
of undesirability. Travel is very much a fashion-led product, after all.