Over the past six decades, tourism experienced continued expansion and diversification, becoming one of the largest and fastest-growing economic sectors in the world, and despite occasional shocks, international tourist arrivals have shown virtually uninterrupted growth – from 25 million in 1950, to 278 million in 1980, 528 million in 1995, and 1,035 million in 2012 according the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). Further, the UNWTO estimates that international tourist arrivals worldwide will increase by 3.3% a year from 2010 to 2030 to reach 1.8 billion.
The Great Lakes region is rich in natural beauty, heritage and culture. The region’s built attractions are world-renowned. Its places, from its biggest cities to its smallest villages and rural communities, are among the best places in the world to live, do business and visit. In short, the region has everything it needs to be one of the world’s leading global tourism destinations.
The challenge, however, is that no one organization has had the mandate, or the resources, to promote the region as a region. As a result, while the eight Great Lakes States and the Provinces of Ontario and Québec are premier destinations for tourists in their own right, there are opportunities for tourism partners in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence region to collaborate in promoting and branding the region.
Therefore, the Council of the Great Lakes Region, working with government, business, academia and the non-profit community, will develop an approach that promotes the Great Lakes Region as a destination and that results in new product development, which would grow tourism on both sides of the border and in turn stimulate economic activity in parts of the region that have been hit hard by the global recession.
At 9.1% of global GDP, the World Travel and Tourism Council estimates that travel and tourism generates more economic output than automotive manufacturing (7.9%), mining (8.0%) and chemicals manufacturing (9.0%). Moreover, with a total impact of 8.7% of world employment, travel and tourism is one of the leading job creators in the world, sustaining 255 million jobs in 2011.