The UK travel and tourism industry outperformed the country's economy as a whole in 2012, according to new figures.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /?>
Research by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) found that travel and tourism grew its contribution to gross domestic product (GDP) by 0.5%, compared with 0.1% whole GDP growth.
The sector's total economic contribution in 2012, accounting for its direct, indirect and induced impacts, was £106.3b in GDP, £8.9b in investment (4% of total investment) and £25.3b in exports (5% of total exports).
The industry supported more than 2.42 million jobs in 2012 (8% of UK total employment) with a forecasted 1% expansion in 2013.
David Scowsill, president and chief executive of WTTC, said: "Travel and tourism has been a real hero for the British economy this year. The UK is the only European G20 country where travel and tourism outperformed its economy in 2012.
"The growth and saviour of the industry in the UK this year was leisure spending and this is very likely to have been driven by recent events such as the Royal Wedding, the Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics."
According to the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), the UK hosted 29.2 million visitors in 2012, whose total spending increased by 2%. WTTC and UNWTO predict that the number of international travellers to the UK will rise by 2% to 29.8 million this year.
WTTC is predicting the UK travel and tourism industry will expand its total contribution to GDP by 1.7% in 2013, compared with the 2.4% predicted for global economic travel and tourism growth.
Scowsill added: "This year's results hammer home that travel and tourism is an important driver for UK economic development and for job creation. But the UK's restrictive visa and tax regimes are holding back further economic growth.
"The British Government is charging the highest Air Passenger Duty tax in the world, insisting on lengthy & costly visa application processes, whilst postponing decisions on key infrastructure expansion.
"WTTC is calling on the UK Government to loosen visa bureaucracy, reduce high air passenger duty and improve airport capacity. The UK government is not maximising the opportunity that this industry provides to stimulate job creation and economic growth."
Among the 20 largest global economies (the G20), South Korea, China, South Africa and Indonesia performed best. Growth of less than 1% in Europe and 2% in the United States was counter-balanced by 10% growth in South Korea, 7% in China and South Africa and 6% in Indonesia.
David Scowsill continued: "The UK is being left behind by emerging market destinations such as China, which is investing and seeing strong growth. In fact, WTTC forecasts that China will overtake the United States to be the world's biggest travel and tourism economy by 2023."
Click here to read the WTTC's economic impact report and forecast on travel and tourism's contribution to GDP for the UK.
WTTC: highlights of its report