Demographics, economics, and travel are all inextricably linked. Growing populations, especially in the developing world, mean enormous potential for new outbound travelers. This potential energy is converted to the kinetic movement of people when populations experience economic development that allows them to afford international travel.
Burgeoning commercial ties lead to growth of business travel. And that same economic development also leads to rising incomes, which power leisure travel. These new tourists often have a desire to visit both classic vacation sites — like the Eiffel Tower— as well as short-haul destinations, which is supercharging inbound arrivals to destinations across Asia.
This report aims to present a picture of the state of global travel today and to forecast its development over the next decade. We attempt to do this by first forecasting the underlying drivers of travel: demographics and the broad economy. We begin this report by reviewing the current distribution of, and 10-year forecasts for, both global population and gross domestic product (GDP).
From there, we examine the current breakdown of international travel departures and then develop estimates for 2024 and 2029. Our forecasts cover outbound travel for five major regions as well as many subregions and individual countries.
We hope that this report and its forecasts can serve as a roadmap for strategic planners at hotels, airlines, travel agents, and destination marketing organizations who seek to understand the sources of their future customers.
What You'll Learn From This Report
- Five- and 10-year Estimates for population, population growth, and population share by region
- Five- and 10-year Estimates for gross domestic product, GDP growth, and GDP share by region
- Five- and 10-year Estimates for international outbound departures, departures growth, and departures share by region
- Skift Research’s view on countries facing inflection points for outbound travel growth
- Regional spotlights for all major geographies with tourism estimates for key outbound country markets
Seven Key Takeaways
- Asia Pacific is, and will remain, the largest region in the world by population: Today the region is home to nearly 4.2 billion people, just over half (54%) of the planet, and is likely to add a further 283 million individuals over the next decade. India is estimated to add 99 million individuals over the next 10 years, 35% of the region’s growth; and Southeast Asia to collectively add 60 million individuals over the same time frame, 21% of the region’s growth.
- Africa & the Middle East will have the fastest growing population group over the next decade: One-half of all births over the next decade are expected to happen in this region. Africa & the Middle East’s population is expected to grow more than twice as fast as the rest of the world from 1.6 billion to 2.0 billion — a 2.2% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2019–2029 versus 0.6% across all other regions.
- Asia Pacific will likely account for 41% of the global economy by 2029: We expect that Asia Pacific will be the largest source of economic growth over the next decade, potentially adding nearly $22.9 trillion of output, an 11.8% CAGR and 54% of worldwide growth. China leads here, but Southeast Asia and India are both growing rapidly as well.
- Per Capita GDP of $20,000 is an important inflection point, in our view, at which countries begin to grow outbound departures noticeably for the first time: We identified nine countries that we expect to approach or cross this threshold in the next decade which we estimate should, collectively, add just over 200 million new international travelers over this time period, representing 40% of growth in departures worldwide.
- Europe & Central Asia will remain the largest source of outbound travelers over the next decade: Despite minimal population growth, Europe & Central Asia should remain an economic powerhouse and continue to have the highest rate of travel per capita in the globe. As a result, we expect this region to grow from 662 million international departures today, to 746 million by 2029, 41% of all departures worldwide.
- Asia Pacific will add the most new travelers over the next decade: The greatest number of new international travelers will depart from the Asia Pacific region to the tune of 273 million additional outbound trips, 54% of all growth worldwide. That should bring the region up from 385 million departures in 2019, a 29% market share, to 657 million by 2029, a 36% market share.
- Center of gravity in travel will shift east and south: We believe that the world will add 507 million new outbound travelers in the decade to come with perhaps as much as 413 million of those from Asia Pacific, Latin America & the Caribbean, or Africa & the Middle East. This means that the center of gravity in outbound travel will shift eastward and southward. It also means, as many of these new visitors will begin by traveling close to home, that inbound markets as well as domestic markets in these same geographies will be transformed by short-haul travel. This creates new opportunity both for local travel companies and multinational incumbents.
Demographics are a slow-moving, and often quite predictable forces. The foundation for meaningful population shifts have, in many cases, already been set and we will watch them play out over the next decade and beyond.
For this report, we divide the world into five major regions into which every country is assigned: North America, Latin America & the Caribbean, Europe & Central Asia, Asia Pacific, and Africa & the Middle East. There are a lot of small ways in which geographical regions developed by different organizations vary. We tried to conform our regions closely to how the World Bank reports tourism data, while combining some of its smaller subregions with spotty tourism departures into larger groupings to ensure that we had a critical threshold of data from which to develop more reliable forecasts. We also tried to make sure that our regions still make sense in terms of geographic, cultural, and economic ties.
In our final regional assignments, North America consists of the United States and Canada, while Mexico is grouped with the Latin America & the Caribbean region. Central Asia, Russia, and broader Eastern Europe are included within Europe & Central Asia, this is primarily to conform with data reporting from the World Bank. Pacific Rim nations such as Japan and Korea are included along with Oceania in the Asia Pacific bloc. We note that these nations have strong trade ties with China and other East Asian nations. The World Bank’s Middle East and North Africa region are combined with its sub-Saharan Africa category to create a broader Africa & Middle East region. We note that this is consistent with many multinational corporations that commonly combine the Middle East and Africa in their geographic financial reporting.
Asia Pacific will account for 53 percent of global population by 2029
The biggest population shift has been, and will continue to take place in, Asia Pacific (APAC). Today the region is home to nearly 4.2 billion, just over half (54%) of all people on the planet. Demographers of the United Nations’ Population Division forecast that over the next decade, APAC will add a further 283 million individuals. For context, the world population is expected to grow by 765 million over that time frame, meaning that Asia Pacific will account for 37% of that growth.
The single largest contributor to this growth will be India, which according to some models, is expected to surpass China as the world’s largest country by 2025. India is estimated to add 99 million individuals over the next 10 years, 35% of the region’s growth. Southeast Asia as a whole too will be an important driver of population growth adding 60 million through 2029, 21% of Asia Pacific’s populace growth. Southeast Asia’s population boom will be led by Indonesia (adding 18mn people over the next decade), the Philippines (11mn), and Vietnam (6mn). China is expected to grow by a still impressive 27 million individuals.
Africa & Middle East fastest growing region over the next decade, LatAm also quite speedy
With an estimated population of 4.5 billion by 2029, Asia Pacific will remain the largest region in the world by population. But the title of fastest growing geography will shift to Africa & the Middle East (AME) with one-half of all births over the next decade expected to happen there. Africa & the Middle East’s population is expected to grow more than twice as fast as the rest of the world from 1.6 billion to 2.0 billion — a 2.2% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2019–2029 versus 0.6% across all other regions.
Latin America & the Caribbean should also earn a demographic dividend, i.e., the boost that comes from a young and growing population. Starting from a smaller population base today, the region is expected to add 55 million new individuals, a 0.8% CAGR over the next decade.
Population growth to be more muted in Europe & Central Asia, North America
Population growth will slow in Europe & Central Asia, though high fertility in Central Asia provides a shot in the arm, as does migration into Western Europe. Eastern Europe is actually expected to see a decline in population size over the next decade. Overall the region is expected to grow by just 11 million individuals, a 0.1% CAGR over the next decade.
North America should continue to chug along at a fairly steady growth rate, adding 26 million new people through a combination of births and immigration, a 0.7% CAGR over the next decade. This slow-but-steady growth rate is about the same as what the region experienced over the last decade.
Gross Domestic Product
Gross domestic product (GDP) is one of the core building blocks by which we measure the economy of any country. It measures the total economic output of a nation by summing all of its consumer spending, business investment, government transfers, and the net value of all its exported goods (exports less imports).
The GDP of a nation will be a function of its population and its workers’ productivity. That means that the above demographic changes will play a big role in driving future economic output. At the very least, regions with large population growth, such as Asia and Africa, have the latent potential for large gains in economic production. However, this potential can be either aided or moderated by improvements in or a dearth of technological productivity, ease of doing business, trained labor, etc.
For the purposes of this analysis, all GDP figures are reported in current U.S. dollars. For 2019 and 2024, we sourced our GDP estimates from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). For 2029 GDP estimates, we used the long-term forecast by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) supplemented by PwC’s 2017 publication, “The Long View: How will the global economic order change by 2050?,” and interpolated by Skift Research. It should be noted that GDP estimates are much more volatile, especially over longer time horizons, than demographic estimates.
Asia Pacific will account for 41 percent of the global economy by 2029
We expect that Asia Pacific will be, far and away, the largest source of economic growth over the next decade; potentially adding nearly $22.9 trillion of output, an 11.8% CAGR and 54% of worldwide growth. That would give Asia Pacific a GDP of $53.4 trillion by 2029, 41% of the global economy.
Drilling down to the individual country level shows us that China is the undisputed leader of the pack. We expect it to grow its economy from $14.2 trillion in 2019 to $25.8 trillion by 2029, an impressive absolute change of $11.5 trillion, or a 6.1% CAGR. Other countries will grow even faster on a percent basis. Vietnam (9.2% 10-year CAGR), India (9.1%), the Philippines (9.1%), and Indonesia (7.2%) should all post blazing fast growth rates, helping to propel the region forward.
Europe & Central Asia, North America to remain economic heavyweights
In this economic comparison the importance of worker and technological productivity stands out, and puts Europe & Central Asia as the second fastest growing economic region in terms of absolute value added over the next decade, despite having the slowest regional population growth. We expect the continent to add $7.3 trillion of GDP over the next decade and to generate $30 trillion by 2029, a 5.7% CAGR.
North America too should see outsized growth relative to its population size. We expect it to post a 4.0% 2019–2029 CAGR, adding $5.0 trillion of GDP in absolute terms. That should leave North America at $28.1 trillion in GDP by 2029.
Africa & Middle East, Latin America & Caribbean have demographic advantages and high growth rates, but absolute share of GDP lags
The three regions discussed in the previous sections (Asia Pacific, Europe & Central Asia, and North America) out of our five total account for 88% of world GDP today. We anticipate that the same three regions will account for 86% of world GDP by 2029. That is because, despite demographic headwinds and high percentage growth rates, both Africa & the Middle East and Latin America & the Caribbean have GDPs that are an order of magnitude below other regions.
Africa & the Middle East should post high percentage point economic growth rates, a 13.1% 10-year CAGR the highest percentage point growth of any region. But off of a base of just $5.3 trillion in GDP, even impressive growth rates can only take Africa & the Middle East to a forecasted GDP of $9.9 trillion in 2029, 7.6% of the world’s total output.
Similarly, Latin America & the Caribbean is estimated to grow at a 7.2% CAGR from $5.4 trillion today to $8.4 trillion by 2029, 6.5% of the world’s total output. That leaves Latin America & the Caribbean as the smallest geographical region by overall GDP, though its GDP per capita will be higher than Africa & the Middle East’s.
Beyond our forecast range, it should be emphasized that Africa & the Middle East has the greatest demographic potential. The opportunity can be seen clearly here: by 2029, we expect the region to be home to 23% of the world’s population, but only be responsible for 8% of the world’s economy. To the extent it can close that gap by putting its young labor force to work, it has the potential to reshape our long-term view of the world’s economy.
World Travel as it Stands Today
We estimate that there will be 1.3 billion international trips taken this year, 2019, up from 1.23 billion in 2017, the latest year for which we have finalized data.
Europe & Central Asia will send the most travelers abroad: 662 million of them representing 52% of worldwide traffic. The largest fraction of these trips will originate in Western Europe, but Central Europe and Russia will still contribute a significant share.
The second largest region is Asia Pacific, accounting for a further 385 million trips, 28% of the global total. While China adds a whopping 166 million trips to this region’s total, Asia Pacific would remain the second largest outbound region even excluding that giant.
We would note here that on an individual country basis, both China and the United States are outsized travel contributors and that Europe gets its strength from an amalgamation of many well-traveled countries.
Europe & Central Asia also leads the world in international trips taken per capita. This is partially a function of geography as the region has a very high density of independent nations within a relatively small distance. The existence of the European Union means that much of the continent has tight business ties and minimal border crossing friction. Plus of course, Europe is one of the wealthiest regions in the world.
Wealth helps explain why North America follows with the next highest level of international travel per capita as well. The long distances involved mean that North Americans take more domestic trips than international, but even so, a strong business ecosystem and high levels of income explain the relatively high penetration of travel here.
On the other hand, only a small percentage of those in Asia Pacific have access to international travel, especially in developing parts of the region. That this region generates three times as many international departures as North America does despite having nearly a quarter of the travel penetration rate speaks to its huge size advantage (Asia Pacific accounts for 54% of the world population).
International departures per capita illustrate the latent potential for travel growth from Asia Pacific, Latin America & the Caribbean, and Africa & the Middle East. The outbound travel from these regions that we have observed to date is coming from a small share of the population. If emerging countries within these markets can increase their wealth and levels of development, they are poised to post even stronger travel growth numbers as population increases are compounded by rising per capita rates of travel.
Searching for Inflection Points in Outbound Travel
A certain level of economic development is needed before a country’s citizens begin traveling abroad. From a pure leisure perspective, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is at play here. Families first require the income to meet basic physiological and safety needs before they can turn to the psychological and self-fulfillment needs that travel for pleasure meets. Similarly, a country’s industry must reach a certain size and sophistication before it begins acquiring customers or shipping exports abroad.
To understand the tipping point where higher incomes finally begin to translate into increased travel, we examined historical country-level data for 121 nations. In order to control for population, we measured each country’s international departures per capita as well as gross domestic product (GDP) per capita. GDP was measured in constant international dollars to adjust for changes in inflation across time and for differences in purchasing power parity across countries.
We collected GDP per capita and international departures per capita for each country for the years 1995–2017 (or the most available, when a country did not report data for the full time series). This gave us 2,135 pairs of annual GDP per capita and departures per capita to analyze.
We split the GDP per capita into 10 deciles and then calculated the median international departures per capita for each of these equally sized buckets.
Our results show that $20,000 in GDP per capita is generally a tipping point where a country begins to send notable numbers of travelers abroad. There is another, less pronounced but still notable, break point at $36,000 in GDP per capita where international travel accelerates further.
Nine countries will approach or cross this inflection point by 2029 adding a substantial amount of international travelers
We identified nine countries that we expect to approach or cross this threshold in the next decade: China, Iran, Mexico, Egypt, Indonesia, Thailand, Argentina, Brazil, and Colombia. These countries are worth paying attention to as, collectively, we expect them to add just over 200 million new international travelers over the next decade, representing 40% of growth in departures worldwide.
We recognize that this grouping includes China whose sheer size skews the absolute figures somewhat but, excluding China, the remaining eight countries are still on track for impressive growth. We estimate that they will create 80 million new international visitors in the next 10 years, or one-fifth of all new traffic over that time frame.
We emphasize that these are broad forecasts, and that country-specific issues, such as geopolitics, could easily derail these numbers. But we hope to illustrate the impressive tourism potential at play within these nations.
Tourism Forecasting Approach
Our tourism figures include both leisure and business travelers. Each source of traffic will have different drivers. Leisure travel is generally influenced by consumer confidence, wages, and savings. Work travel tracks more closely with business investment, corporate profits, and CEO confidence, among others.
In forecasting specific 1:1 country pairs, visa requirements, destination marketing efforts, and airlift all matter. So too will exchange rates and the relative cost of travel to destinations compared to their substitute locales.
These nuances matter, but their importance fades somewhat once we apply a bigger, more regional lens. Destination price competitiveness will, for example, certainly influence whether Chinese travelers choose to visit Thailand or Vietnam. But overall, Chinese outbound traffic and visits to South East Asia are relatively (but not totally) immune to these impacts.
At the macro level, we believe that population and gross domestic product (GDP) are the two most important factors that explain a large portion of expected aggregate international departures. GDP captures both consumer spending and corporate investment, thus tracking what are arguably the most important drivers of leisure and business travel, respectively.
To build our global forecast we started by modeling a linear mathematical relationship between GDP per capita and international departures per capita at the country level. We then applied GDP per capita estimates to these models to generate a forecast for departures per capita. For 2019 and 2024 we sourced our GDP per capita estimates from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). For 2029 GDP estimates, we used the long-term forecast by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) supplemented by PwC’s 2017 publication, “The Long View: How will the global economic order change by 2050?”
Using this approach, we developed departure per capita estimates for 98 out of 116 possible countries in 2019 and 2024; due to the difficulty of generating long-term GDP estimates, our count of countries with 2029 estimates falls to 43. Each country was assigned a region and sub-region. Aggregating to the regional level, we project modest increases in travel per capita for all regions except for North America.
Next we applied our per capita departure forecast to demographic estimates from the United Nations’ Population Division to generate an overall departure estimate for each country which were aggregated along their respective regional groupings.
Finally, we compared historical departure data that was available at both the country and regional level to understand what share of a given region’s overall departures were accounted for by the countries for which we had developed a forecast. Our raw aggregate regional forecasts were then grossed up by this coverage ratio to account for individual countries that we were unable to forecast due to missing data. We approximate that our raw aggregate forecasts cover countries which represent 71% of total departures in 2024 and 61% of total departures 2029.
This final step should make our top-level regional forecasts more accurate, but it also introduces departures within each region which are unassigned to a specific country and therefore also unassigned to any subregion.
Travel Growth a Worldwide, Secular Trend
Our forecasts suggest that international travel will continue to grow at a healthy clip in all regions across the globe. In fact, based on both historical and forecasted data, international travel is one of the most impressively steady and sustainable trends we have observed across a variety of economic data. Skift Research estimates, based on historical data from the World Tourism Organization, accessed through the World Bank, that there were 494 million new international traveler departures over the last 10 years. Further, we forecast that the world will add another 507 million new traveler departures in the decade to come.
We expect the growth rate for international travelers to slow somewhat. After posting a 5.0% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) between 2009–2014 and a 4.7% rate from 2014–2019e we see growth decelerating to a 3.3% CAGR for 2019e–2024e and to 3.4% from 2024e–2029e. However, these relatively slower growth rates compounding off a higher base should still lead to record increases in the absolute number of international travelers for the decade to come, as mentioned above.
Five- and 10-Year Regional Forecasts
Europe & Central Asia to remain the largest source of outbound travelers
Moving down to the regional level, Europe & Central Asia is the largest source of outbound tourists today and we expect it to remain so over the next decade. From 662 million international departures today, we forecast there will be 746 million by 2029, a 1.2% CAGR.
Despite its minimal population growth, Europe is today, and should continue to have, the highest rate of travel per capita out of any region at an estimated 0.8 outbound trips per person by 2029 compared to 0.2 worldwide. This follows from the region’s wealth in terms of GDP per capita.
However, Europe & Central Asia’s margin of leadership will be eroded by growth in other areas and we expect Europe & Central Asia to fall from 50% of worldwide departures today to 41% in 2029.
Asia Pacific to add the most new travelers over the next decade
The greatest number of new international travelers over the next decade will depart from the Asia Pacific region to the tune of 273 million additional outbound trips, 54% of all growth worldwide. That should bring the region up from 385 million departures in 2019, a 29% market share, to 657 million by 2029, a 36% market share.
The 500-pound gorilla here is China, which we expect, with its combination of both population and GDP per capita growth, will contribute 120 million departures to that regional figure. By 2029, China could be sending 286 million trips abroad.
The Chinese numbers are impressive, but the percent growth rates will be higher elsewhere, according to our estimates. We forecast South Asia, led by India, will grow at a 9.0% CAGR for 2019–2029 outpacing its emerging East Asian neighbors which should grow at a 5.8% CAGR.
Africa & Middle East, Latin America to see travel growth accelerate in the back half of the forecast period
We believe that Africa & the Middle East can grow outbound visitors at an 8.8% CAGR over the next 10 years, that’s 89 million new outbound departures. We expect much of the near-term growth in this geography to come from the wealthier Middle East segment. We forecast Africa & the Middle East to have 157 million departures by 2029, a 9% market share.
We expect for there to be a low penetration of international travel here as Africa & the Middle East is estimated to be home to nearly a quarter of the world’s population in 10 years’ time, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa.
Latin America & the Caribbean too should post high growth, but remain a small part of overall outbound travel. We predict a 5.5% CAGR through 2029 outpacing the global average of 3.3%, bringing the region to 123 million outbound departures, a 7% market share. This forecast is back loaded and the region’s growth is expected to accelerate to a 6.8% CAGR between 2024–2029.
Summary tables of historical and forecast international travel departures by region
Our tables with detailed forecasts for number of departures, share of departures, and growth rates by region and subregion are presented below.
Regional Spotlight: Europe & Central Asia
The reigning king of outbound tourism is likely to keep its crown over the next decade, but its edge will be significantly eroded. Europe’s population growth is particularly anemic, and in some cases negative. This means that for the most part tourism is only growing due to ever increasing per capita penetration rates. These are boosted by some of the highest incomes in the world but also aided by close trade ties and loose border controls.
To the extent that Brexit and rising nationalist sentiment in the European Union leads to greater friction when traveling, these factors could pose a threat to our estimates.
Key Markets: By 2029, we forecast that the five largest markets for outbound travel in Europe & Central Asia will be Germany, the United Kingdom, Russia, France, and Italy. Detailed tables for each country can be found below.
Collectively these countries should represent 315 million outbound departures in 2029, 42% of all trips departing from within the region and 17% worldwide (versus 289mn/44%/22% in 2019).
We project these key markets will be home to 398 million people by 2029, 43% of the total population in the region and 5% worldwide (versus 395mn/43%/5% in 2019).
With regard to the economy, we expect for these five states to contribute $14.9 trillion of GDP by 2029, 49% of the region’s output and 11% of the global economy (versus $11.8bn/51%/13% in 2019).
Regional Spotlight: Asia Pacific
Asia Pacific will be perhaps the most important region for outbound travel over the next decade, fueled by a growing middle class. Though we estimate that Asia Pacific will account for 36% of global departures by 2029, this is under-indexing relative to its heft in both population and GDP. We expect that in a decade, this region could represent 53% of the world’s population and 41% of its GDP.
Key Markets: By 2029, we forecast that the five largest markets for outbound travel in Asia Pacific will be China, India, South Korea, Indonesia, and Thailand. Detailed tables for each country can be found below.
Collectively these countries should represent 431 million outbound departures in 2029, 66% of all trips departing from within the region and 24% worldwide (versus 243mn/63%/19% in 2019).
We project these key markets will be home to 3,280 million people by 2029, 73% of the total population in the region and 39% worldwide (versus 3,133mn/75%/41% in 2019).
With regard to the economy, we expect for these five states to contribute $38.3 trillion of GDP by 2029, 72% of the region’s output and 29% of the global economy (versus $20.5bn/67%/23% in 2019).
Regional Spotlight: North America
This region is just the United States and Canada. Steady growth, though trailing off towards the end of our forecast period is the story here. Large distances to most international destinations dampen demand for travel abroad.
On the other hand, citizens are wealthy on a global scale, encouraging long-distance travel. Importantly, the U.S. is home to a significant number of multinational firms, encouraging healthy international business travel.
Key Markets: The regional statistics above are already made up of the top two, and only two countries in this region so we will not repeat the same data here. Detailed tables for each country are presented below.
Regional Spotlight: Latin America & Caribbean
Latin America & the Caribbean is a relatively minor part of the international travel market but growing rapidly off a smaller base. Those growth rates accelerate notably in the 2024–2029 time frame, setting the stage for further acceleration beyond our forecast horizon.
Low per capita international travel penetration is holding back growth in these markets. That is unfortunately a result of, and compounded by, high levels of inequality within many of these countries. One side effect of only sending the upper-crust abroad is that their per-trip spending can pack quite the punch. Though large spending from this limited pool of high-rollers is necessarily limited to only a select few end-markets (e.g., Brazil to Miami traffic).
Key Markets: By 2029, we forecast that the five largest markets for outbound travel in Latin America & the Caribbean will be Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, and Chile. Detailed tables for each country can be found below.
Collectively these countries should represent 85 million outbound departures in 2029, 67% of all trips departing from within the region and 6% worldwide (versus 50mn/68%/6% in 2019).
We project these key markets will be home to 477 million people by 2029, 67% of the total population in the region and 6% worldwide (versus 450mn/68%/6% in 2019).
With regard to the economy, we expect for these five states to contribute $6.7 trillion of GDP by 2029, 80% of the region’s output and 5% of the global economy (versus $4.3bn/79%/5% in 2019).
Regional Spotlight: Africa & Middle East
Africa & the Middle East is home to a burgeoning population, estimated to be nearly a quarter of the world’s population in 10 years’ time. But slow economic development is holding this part of the world back from becoming a tourism powerhouse. Over the time frame of our analysis, we expect growth will be driven by the wealthiest parts of this geography in the Middle East and North Africa. Please note that our forecast is hindered by a lack of departure data from sub-Saharan Africa.
While a longer time horizon was not formally evaluated as part of this research, based on estimated demographics and GDP, we expect that international tourism sourced from sub-Saharan Africa could truly come into its own in the years to come over the decades to follow (e.g. 2030–2050).
Key Markets: By 2029, we forecast that the four largest markets for outbound travel in Africa & the Middle East will be Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt, and Israel. Due to data insufficiency, we struggled to develop many individual country forecasts within sub-Saharan Africa. However, based on population and GDP, we believe that Nigeria should likely be counted among the top five markets for this region.
Collectively, the top four countries should represent 109 million outbound departures in 2029, 69% of all trips departing from within the region and 6% worldwide (versus 45mn/66%/3% in 2019).
We project for these four key markets to be home to 242 million people by 2029, 12% of the total population in the region and 3% worldwide (versus 220mn/14%/3% in 2019). Including Nigeria, we project these five markets will be home to 470 million people by 2029, 24% of the population in the region and 6% worldwide (versus 411mn/26%/5% in 2019).
With regard to the economy, we expect for these four states to contribute $3.7 trillion of GDP by 2029, 37% of the region’s output and 3% of the global economy (versus $1.9bn/36%/2% in 2019). Including Nigeria, we project these five states will contribute $4.5 trillion of GDP by 2029, 46% of the region’s output and 3% of the global economy (versus $2.4bn/45%/3% in 2019).
Travel has the potential to be a powerful force for good, inextricably linked with shifts in global demographics and economics. It strengthens economic ties across borders and can shape the public perception of outside lands and people. Based on both historical and forecasted data, it is one of the most remarkably consistent worldwide trends.
North America and Europe & Central Asia are the most economically developed regions in the world. On a per capita basis, they will remain so for the foreseeable future. This makes them a large and steady influence on global travel.
Asia Pacific is, and will remain home to the largest population in the world. Coupled with strong economic growth, this leaves many of the countries here poised to reshape what international travel looks like over the next decade.
Africa & the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa specifically, has the fastest growing population in the world. The region has great potential for outbound travel, but struggles to realize the opportunity.
International travel flows from both population and economic development. The long-term prognosis for these drivers means that the next billion travelers will not look like the first. Of the 507 million new outbound travelers we expect in the decade to come, perhaps as many as 413 million of those will be from Asia Pacific, Latin America & the Caribbean, or Africa & the Middle East.
These travelers will want to visit many of the ‘classic’ tourism sites in the West as well as new ones. That means that established operators will have to update their standards for new languages and cultural expectations. It also means, in many cases, embracing new technologies and platforms, such as WeChat.
But for many of these new visitors, a trip to Europe or America will be long-haul travel. Most of these new travelers will begin their travels close to home. The same broad regions that generate the most outbound travel, will see a corresponding boost to inbound and domestic travel and these growing geographies will be transformed by short-haul travel.
This means that established travel players — hotels, airlines, cruises, and travel agents — seeking growth will have to shift their focus eastward and southward. It is also a massive opportunity for local organizations to establish themselves on the world stage.