US Travelers
Travelers make their way to trains in Grand Central Station, New York November 22, 2011. REUTERS

The Americas' travel and tourism industry is three times the size of its automotive manufacturing and roughly one-third larger than chemicals manufacturing and mining. These are among the surprising revelations from a new World Travel & Tourism Council report, unveiled last week at the WTTC's first Regional Summit of the Americas in Riviera Maya, Mexico.

The research, carried out by Oxford Economics, shows that the sector's direct contribution to the Americas' GDP is $666 billion. The study looked at the United States, Canada, Mexico, Jamaica, Brazil, and Argentina.

Travel and tourism's total contribution to GDP in the Americas was $1.9 trillion in 2011, according to WTTC. That figure represents about 8.6 of total GDP.

The council argues that travel and tourism's contribution to GDP is growing faster than most other sectors in the Americas and will rise by 3.6 percent over the next 10 years, a much faster rate than mining (1.5 percent), education (2 percent), chemicals (2.5 percent) and financial services (3.4 percent).

The industry directly employs some 15 million workers in the Americas and is surpassing the job creation of mining (2.5m), chemicals manufacturing (2.5m), automotive (4m), and financial services (10m).

The WTTC further highlights Mexico as an example of tourism's growth potential. The council argues that every $1 million spent on travel and tourism generates a further $1.5 million to the economy as a whole and 66 jobs (compared to an average of 42 for all sectors looked at in the study).

The results are extraordinary, David Scowsil, President and CEO of WTTC, said in a statement. Within our industry, we have always known that travel and tourism is a vast contributor to economic growth and job creation. These figures bear out just how significant our industry is for the Americas region.

These figures prove that it is time that the governments really sit up and take notice of the travel and tourism industry, he added. As a driver of economic recovery and growth in a very turbulent time, the industry stands apart for the sheer scale of its ability to create jobs and growth in every part of the globe and especially in the Americas as shown by this study.

The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) recently stated that in 2011, there was a flow of 980 million international tourists worldwide, representing a 4 percent increase over the previous year. Forecasters indicate that the industry will experience sustained development in the short to medium terms and reach 1 billion international visitors by 2012 and 1.8 billion by 2030.

The WTTC is an international organization of travel industry executives promoting travel and tourism worldwide. Over 500 CEOs from international companies in the tourism industry gathered last week for the regional summit. CLICK HERE for a complete look at the study.