By David Shrimpton and Andrew Sangster
The value of travel and tourism to the UK economy remains hugely undervalued. That is the verdict of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), which hosted an industry seminar in London last week, together with the Tourism Society.
WTTC vice-chairman Sir Colin Marshall told delegates: "Travel and tourism is a vitally important part of the UK economy and will become even more important over the next 10 years."
Sir Colin is also chairman of British Airways and president of the Confederation of British Industry.
Travel and tourism will generate 11.6% of the UK's gross domestic product (GDP) in 1996 and account for three million jobs, according to the WTTC's latest report, launched at the meeting.
The figures are far higher than those produced by bodies such as the British Tourist Authority (BTA), which are based solely on spending by tourists. The BTA calculates tourism at just 5.5% of GDP in the UK.
But the WTTC figures claim to measure the total impact of tourism on the economy - including all spending by consumers directly attributable to travel and tourism, and capital investment in tourism infrastructure.
Gross output on travel and tourism in the UK will increase by 32% over the next 10 years, the WTTC report predicts, creating a further 310,000 jobs.
Sir Colin added that these jobs were not all low-paid and low-skilled: "Travel and tourism employment includes a large number of high-wage, high-skill and senior level manager jobs.
"The average level of pay in British travel and tourism is 3.4% higher than the national average," he said.
He called on the Government to make the industry "a top economic priority" and to recognise its enormous potential for creating jobs in the next decade.
The figures for the UK are part of a wider study that demonstrates the value of travel and tourism on a global scale. The worldwide study gives a detailed breakdown for 24 countries representing 80% of the world market.
The WTTC projects that travel and tourism will generate more than 250 million jobs this year, which could grow to 385 million by 2006.
To encourage this growth in jobs the WTTC is promoting what it calls a Millennium Vision for governments and the private sector.
This four-point programme calls for: travel and tourism to be made a strategic economic development and employment priority; more open and competitive markets; the pursuit of sustainable development; and the elimination of barriers to growth.
The report, The 1996/7 WTTC Travel & Tourism Report, costs £350 plus a £12 handling fee. Tel: 0181-577 3836.