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The APEC Tourism Working Group (TWG) was formed in 1991 as a platform for tourism administrators of APEC economies to share information, exchange views and develop areas of cooperation in tourism, trade and policies to support growth in the region through travel and tourism.

In 2020, the group endorsed its APEC TWG Strategic Plan 2020–2024, covering four priority areas:

  1. Digital transformation
  2. Human capital development
  3. Travel and facilitation competitiveness
  4. Sustainable tourism and economic growth

Additionally, the TWG aligned with APEC Malaysia 2020’s priorities under its overarching theme “Optimising Human Potential towards a Resilient Future of Shared Prosperity. Pivot. Prioritise. Progress”:

  • Improving the narrative of trade and investment
  • Inclusive economic participation through digital economy and technology
  • Driving innovative sustainability

The TWG pursued partnerships with relevant tourism stakeholders to progress its work and continued to work towards its shared target of 800 million international tourists by 2025.

The Economic Contribution of Tourism in the APEC Region

In 2018, APEC ministers recognized the economic significance of tourism in terms of regional cooperation, trade, MSME support, job creation, skills enhancement, innovation, and the development of ICT.

Prior to the pandemic, the tourism sector was one of the fastest growing economic sectors in the world. In 2019, travel and tourism’s direct, indirect and induced impact accounted for

  • USD 9.2 trillion contributed to the world’s GDP, or 10.4 percent of global GDP
  • 334 million jobs or 1 in 10 jobs around the world
  • USD 1.7 trillion in visitor exports (6.8 percent of total exports, 27.4 percent of global services exports)

Severely hit by the pandemic, the contribution of the tourism sector to global GDP has decreased by 49.1 percent, from US$9.2 trillion in 2019 to US$4.7 trillion in 2020. The contribution of tourism sector accounted for10.4 percent of global GDP in 2019, which declined to a share of 5.5 percent in 2020. The 334 million jobs  in 2019 that are connected to the tourism sector have shrunk to 272 million jobs, a decrease of 18.5%.

In the Asia-Pacific region, the total contribution of the tourism sector to GDP suffered a 53.7 percent drop from US$3 trillion in 2019 to US$1.4 trillion in 2020. The contribution of the sector in the region accounted to 9.9 percent of the total economy in 2019. This decreased to only 4.6 percent of the total economy in the Asia-Pacific. The number of jobs also plummeted from185.06 million to 151.01 million jobs, an 18.4 percent decrease of total employment in the region.       

The tourism sector directly and indirectly contributed to all 17 goals of United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, in particular, Economic Growth and Decent Work, Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure, and Responsible Consumption and Production.

Source: APEC State of Tourism Report, World Travel & Tourism Council Economic Impact Reports

Last page update: June 2021


Demyan Smilevets (Mr)
Head, International Cooperation Department
Russia Federal Agency for Tourism
Email: [email protected]
LEE Min-Kyong (Ms)
Program Director

Current Activities

APEC State of Tourism Report 

The TWG generates this annual one-page report on APEC tourism growth for APEC leaders and officials.  The report contains information such as regional statistics, key indicators, and TWG projects to support those indicators, raise awareness of the relevance of the tourism sector and inform policy decisions.  The report demonstrates the importance of the industry and highlights the work of the TWG for APEC Leaders. The TWG developed the first iteration of the report in 2015, with support from TWG guests, the World Travel and Tourism Council and the International Air Transport Association.

APEC Tourism Working Group (TWG) Virtual Meeting on COVID-19

The TWG was the first APEC working group to adapt a fully virtual format in this meeting in May 2020. Fully aware that the tourism industry was the first to suffer and the last to recover from the pandemic, TWG members discussed the Post COVID tourism scenario and revised its Strategic Plan to respond to current and future pandemics in this special meeting.  The group also released a statement (please hyperlink to the statement) on the outcome of the special meeting which contained its commitment to future work in mitigating and recovering from future pandemics and natural disasters. 

Events and Publications

The TWG produced two publications: the APEC Economic Study on the Impact of Cruise Tourism: Fostering MSMEs' Growth and Creating Sustainable Communities, led by Papua New Guinea, and the Prospect Analysis for Sustainable Development of Tourism in Remote Areas of APEC Economies – Phase I, led by Russia.

Despite the pandemic, the TWG continued to hold three self-funded events organized by Malaysia. These were the APEC Forum: In Crisis There is Hope and Opportunity in August; Travel Reimagined: An APEC and Airbnb Tourism Forum in October; and APEC Forum on Medical Tourism: Building a Borderless Future in Healthcare Travel in November.

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