Leisure Travel

Travel & tourism is one of the biggest sectors in terms of global economic impact. Within this context, leisure travel represents by far the most important market. In 2019, travel leisure spending in the United States and China – leading countries in terms of travel & tourism contribution to the global GDP – accounted for 70 percent and 81 percent of the national tourism expenditure respectively.

Within the leisure travel market, tourism digitization plays an essential role. Revenues of Booking Holdings and the Expedia Group – the biggest two online travel agencies (OTAs) worldwide – more than doubled between 2013 and 2019, while evaluating services on travel review websites, such as TripAdvisor, became an important part of the overall tourism experience. As the COVID-19 pandemic turned the travel industry upside down, digital innovation, together with new hygiene measures, domestic destinations, and sustainability will likely lead the way in the new era of leisure travel.

Market size

The calm before the storm
Leisure tourism spending worldwide from 2000 to 2019 (in billion U.S. dollars)
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Before the dramatic impact of the health crisis on the travel industry, leisure tourism spending worldwide had increased steadily since 2015. Global expenditure on leisure trips peaked at roughly 4.7 trillion U.S. dollars in 2019, increasing by 3.1 percent over the previous year. Overall, leisure tourism spending made up 78.6 percent of total global travel spending in 2019.

Tourism industry worldwide
COVID-19 impact on the tourism industry worldwide
COVID-19 impact on global tourism

Market segments

Before the pandemic, the cruise industry was smooth sailing
Number of ocean cruise passengers worldwide from 2009 to 2019 (in millions)
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The number of global ocean cruise passengers has risen gradually since 2009, peaking at nearly 30 million in 2019. In that year, North America recorded the highest passenger volume. The Caribbean, the Bahamas, and Bermuda were the most popular destinations, welcoming about 12 million cruise travelers. This scenario changed drastically in 2020 as the pandemic disrupted the cruise market. For instance, TUI AG’s global revenue from the cruises segment roughly halved in 2020 over the previous year.

Cruise industry worldwide
Cruise industry in the Caribbean
Cruise industry in Europe

Industry trends

Staycation is the new vacation
Number of domestic business and leisure trips in the United States from 2008 to 2019, with a forecast until 2024 (in millions)
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Domestic travel will likely recover sooner than international tourism, as countries adopt different travel restrictions and safety measures depending on the local impact of the pandemic. In the United States, both domestic and inbound visitors dropped sharply in 2020. However, the U.S. still contended with roughly 1.4 billion domestic trips and 7.2 million overseas arrivals in 2020.

Number of overseas arrivals to the United States
Domestic tourism in European countries
Domestic vacations in the United Kingdom

Industry leaders

The two giants of the online travel market
Leading online travel agencies (OTA's) worldwide by revenue in 2019 (in billion U.S. dollars)
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In 2019, Booking Holdings and Expedia Group were the world’s leading online travel agencies. Revenue of Booking Holdings – which, among others, owns websites such as Booking.com, Priceline.com, Agoda.com, and Kayak.com – peaked at over 15 billion U.S. dollars in 2019. In that year, revenue of the Expedia Group reached over 12 billion U.S. dollars. Alongside from the Expedia site, the company owns Hotels.com, Vrbo, Trivago, and other travel fare aggregators and metasearch engines.

Online travel market
Travel companies worldwide
Travel agency industry worldwide

Regional overview

Europe leads, Asia and the Pacific follows
International tourist arrivals worldwide from 2010 to 2019, by region (in millions)
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As of 2019, Europe was by far the most visited region worldwide, recording about 745 million international tourist arrivals, with Southern and Mediterranean Europe being the most popular sub-region. That was more than double the visitors recorded in Asia and the Pacific, which ranked second in terms of international arrivals. In 2019, three European countries – Spain, France, and Germany – also topped the World Economic Forum’s Travel & Tourism Competitiveness ranking.

Travel and tourism in Europe
Tourism industry in Asia and the Pacific
Leading countries in the Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index (TTCI)

Industry Definition

Leisure travel refers to trips taken for relaxation and pleasure. It includes the segments cruises, travel destinations, holiday activities, online travel market, tour operators, and travel agencies. The cruise market mainly focuses on passenger movements, cruise ports and calls, occupancy rates, and bookings. The holiday destination and activities sectors look at the main domestic and international tourism destinations, exploring tourist attractions, and trip purposes.

The internet age has brought about the rise of the online travel market. This segment includes online travel agencies (OTAs), which allow tourists to book travel services on the web, and digital travel-related experiences, like online reviews. While brick-and-mortar travel agencies lost ground to OTAs, some consumers still prefer face-to-face support when booking trips. As well as analyzing the state of such businesses, this market also looks at the online presence of travel agencies and tour operators.

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