eTN Mailbox: Tourism is NOT the world’s largest Industry, so stop saying it is!


Tourism is not an industry in the definition of “industry” as per the System of National Accounts (SNA) the measure of contribution to an economy (GDP).

Tourism is a consumption group (all tourists, domestic & international) and hence the set up of the TSA, (Tourism Satellite Account) which is apart from SNA but draws data from SNA.

So when one says one should exclude transport for example when comparing Tourism to say Transport, one of the worlds biggest industries, one is denying the contribution towards transport made by Tourism (consumption group) By definition Tourism overlaps a number of industries and is a combination of partial outputs of many industries. most only partially associated with tourism. Put another way, if Tourism consumption were to cease, this will result in a reduction of the output of a number of industries, the biggest of which is probably the transport industry.

The development of the TSA has been very important in understanding the economic impact of an “industry” defined by tourists and their consumption for the ‘industry’ in getting recognition by the community and public sector, for planning purposes.

At the end of the day, it might not be the biggest industry in the world, but it is one of the biggest both as an employer and economically speaking. We could not say this with confidence prior to the TSA.

B. Monique Brocx,
Senior Lecturer,
School of Hospitality and Tourism,
Auckland University of Technology,