With domestic tourism set to return faster than international travel, it presents an opportunity for both developed and developing countries to recover from the social and economic impacts of COVID-10, according to the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

The UN specialised agency has released the third of its Tourism and COVID-19 briefing notes, Understanding Domestic Tourism and Seizing its Opportunities.

The publication identifies ways in which destinations around the world are 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 country.

Domestic tourism to drive recovery

“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, while at the same time safeguarding jobs, protecting livelihoods and allowing the social benefits tourism offers to also return,” said UNWTO Secretary-General, Zurab Pololikashvili.

The value of domestic tourism

The briefing note also shows that, in most destinations, domestic tourism generates higher revenues than international tourism. In nations that belong to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, domestic tourism accounts for 75% of total tourism expenditure. 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 nearly US$1trn; Germany with US$249bn; Japan, US$201bn; the UK, US$154bn, and Mexico with US$139bn.

How to boost domestic tourism

Given the value of domestic tourism and current trends, more countries are taking steps to grow their markets, UNWTO reports. The briefing note provides case studies of initiatives designed to stimulate domestic demand. These include initiatives for marketing and promotion as well as financial incentives. Examples of countries taking targeted steps to boost domestic tourist numbers include:

  • Italy: the Bonus Vacanze initiative offers families with annual incomes of up to €40 000 contributions of up €500 to spend in domestic tourism accommodation.
  • Costa Rica moved all public holidays in 2020 and 2021 to Mondays for Costa Ricans to enjoy long weekends to travel domestically and to extend their stays.
  • France launched the ‘This Summer, I visit France’ campaign, highlighting the diversity of destinations across the country.
  • Thailand will subsidise five million nights’ hotel accommodation at 40% of normal room rates for up to five nights.