Tourism and travel-related services

Nearly all WTO members emphasize the importance of tourism, especially in terms of its contribution to employment and generating foreign exchange. Typically one of the most dynamic economic sectors, tourism-related services are labour-intensive, with numerous links to other major segments of the economy.



Tourism and travel-related services includes services provided by hotels and restaurants (including catering), travel agencies and tour operator services, tourist guide services and other related services.

One of the most crucial aspects of international tourism is the cross-border movement of consumers. This permits even unskilled workers in remote areas to become services exporters — for instance, by selling craft items, performing in cultural shows, or working in a tourism lodge.


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Developments in the sector 

According to the World Tourism Organization, international tourist arrivals reached 903 million in 2007, up 6.6 per cent on 2006. Earnings reached a record US$ 856 billion, increasing in real terms by 5.6 per cent over 2006. Receipts from international passenger transport (i.e. visitor exports) were estimated at US$ 165 billion, bringing the total international tourism receipts to over US$ 1 trillion, corresponding to almost US$ 3 billion a day.

While back in 1950, the top 15 destinations absorbed 98 per cent of all international tourist arrivals, in 1970 the proportion was 75 per cent, and this fell to 57 per cent in 2007, reflecting the emergence of new destinations, many of them in developing countries.


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Current commitments and exemptions

Tourism commitments have been made by over 125 WTO members, more than in any other services sector.

For consolidated information on countries’ commitments and exemptions on tourism and travel-related services go to the services database. If you are seeking the commitments of a specific WTO member, go to “Jump to a specific sector for a given Member”, select tourism and travel-related services from the sector dropdown list, select the Member of interest and click “go”. To see a table showing which Members have made commitments in tourism and travel-related services choose “See which Members have made commitments in a specific sector”, select Tourism and travel-related services and click “go”.


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Current negotiations  

Tourism services are included in the new services negotiations, which began in January 2000. The principles of trade in tourism services are contained, as for all services, in the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS).


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Additional information

Search Documents Online
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  • Secretariat background notes on tourism services (Document code S/C/W/* and keyword “tourism and Background Note”)  > search   > help

You can perform more sophisticated searches from the Documents Online search facility by defining multiple search criteria such as document symbol (i.e. code number), full text search or document date.



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Some useful links 

World Tourism Organization (UNWTO)

World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC)

Intergovernmental Working Group of Experts on International Standards of Accounting and Reporting (ISAR)

Overseas Development Institute Research on Tourism