UNWTO points to domestic tourism potential


Recognising the importance of domestic tourism, UNWTO data shows that in 2018, 9 billion domestic tourism trips were made worldwide, six times the number of international tourist arrivals.

Destinations around the world are this year taking proactive steps to grow domestic tourism, from offering bonus holidays for workers to providing vouchers and other incentives to people travelling in their own countries.

UNWTO expects domestic tourism to return faster and stronger than international travel. Given the size of domestic tourism, this will help many destinations recover from the economic impacts of the pandemic.

In the OECD nations, domestic tourism accounts for 75% of total tourism expenditure, while in the European Union, domestic tourism expenditure is 1.8 times higher than inbound tourism expenditure.

Globally, the largest domestic tourism markets in terms of expenditure are the United States with US$1 trillion, Germany with US$249 billion, Japan US$201 billion, the UK with US$154 billion and Mexico with US$139 billion.

A new UNWTO report “ Understanding domestic tourism and seizing its opportunities ” offers many examples of what countries are doing. None of the many examples are on medical tourism but some refer to wellness tourism, and many of the ideas could be adapted for medical and wellness tourism.

These can be grouped into:

  • Financial incentives
  • Marketing and promotion
  • Product development
  • Partnerships
  • Market intelligence
  • Capacity building and training

Examples of countries taking targeted steps to boost domestic tourist numbers include:

  • In Italy, the Bonus Vacanze initiative offers families with incomes of up to €40,000 contributions of up to €500 to spend on domestic tourism accommodation.
  • Malaysia allocated US$113 million worth of travel discount vouchers as well as personal tax relief of up to US$227 for expenditure related to domestic tourism.
  • Costa Rica moved all public holidays of 2020 and 2021 to Mondays to enable Costa Ricans to enjoy long weekends to travel domestically and to extend their stays. It also offers free wellness courses.
  • France launched a new campaign (This Summer, I visit France) highlighting the diversity of destinations across the country.
  • Argentina created an Observatory for Domestic Tourism to provide a better profile of Argentine tourists.
  • Thailand will subsidise 5 million nights of hotel accommodation at 40% of normal room rates for up to five nights.


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