Top Ten Largest Travel and Tourism Businesses

Top Ten Largest Travel and Tourism Businesses
Photo by Alex Perez on Unsplash

The travel and tourism industry was thriving through the end of 2018, making it the eighth straight year of sustained industry growth. More than 1.4 billion people arrived at international ports around the world.

Much of this expansion was attributed to changing consumer habits. In general, people were spending less of their disposable income on consumer goods and more on consumer experiences like travel and fine dining.  In 2019, the United Nations World Tourism Organization estimated that one out of every ten jobs globally was linked to the travel and tourism industry.

This growth trend was projected to continue through 2022 until Covid-19 changed everything.

To get an overview of what the Travel and Tourism industry looked like before this unprecedented disruption, we’ve compiled a list of the top 10 Largest Travel and Tourism Businesses in the World, arranged in order of 2018 total revenue. Two of the ten on our list are family-owned.


Top Ten Largest Travel and Tourism Businesses
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10. Travel Leaders Group

Country of Origin: USA

Revenue: 7.12 billion

Number of Employees: 4,000

Founded in 2008 and headquartered in New York, Travel Leaders Group is a relatively new company that caters primarily to upscale and corporate clientele. Travel Leaders Group services its vast client network through more than 6,000 company-owned, franchised and affiliated travel agencies across the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Mexico, Australia, Greece and Uruguay, among others.

In 2018, 71 per cent of revenue came from business travel, 25 per cent came from leisure travel, while four per cent came from other categories. Its network of hosted agents generated approximately $436.6 million in sales. Recent estimations suggest more than a third of all agents in North America work under the Travel Leaders Group umbrella either directly or indirectly.


Top Ten Largest Travel and Tourism Businesses
By © Moheen Reeyad / Wikimedia Commons / “Ship of Royal Caribbean International at Italy (01)”, CC BY-SA 4.0,

9. Royal Caribbean Cruises

Country of Origin: USA

Revenue: 9.49 billion

Number of Employees: 77,000

Royal Caribbean Cruises is one of just two cruise lines to make our list of top tourism businesses in the world. Founded in 1968 in Miami as Royal Caribbean International, the business has grown to become the world’s second-largest cruise line.

Royal Caribbean Cruises owns and operates Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, Azamara Club Cruises and maintains an ownership stake in TUI Cruises (50 per cent), Holistica (50 per cent), Silversea Cruises (66 per cent), and Pullmantur Cruises (49 per cent). They also have interests in non-cruise businesses including the Grand Bahama Shipyard (40 per cent), and Wamos Air (19 per cent).

In March 2019 Royal Caribbean Cruises signed a deal to purchase the Grand Lucayan resort in Freeport with plans to redevelop the Freeport Harbor. They intend to make Freeport a prime cruise destination through their Holistica cruise line. Royal Caribbean solidified its place as an industry pioneer when it became the first cruise line in the sector to share part of its profit with shoreside and onboard employees.


Top Ten Largest Travel and Tourism Businesses
By Jrobertiko – Denis Adriana Macias, CC BY-SA 3.0,

8. Walt Disney Parks, Resorts & Leisure

Country of Origin: USA

Revenue: 20.29 billion

Number of Employees: 170,000

The lone tourist attraction to make our list is, unsurprisingly, the Walt Disney Parks, Resorts and Leisure division of the Walt Disney parent corporation. Of the ten most-attended amusement parks in the world, the first nine are owned and run by Disney.

Disney Park’s 2018 total of $20.29 billion marks its ninth straight year of increases and nearly doubles the 2009 total of $10.67. Disney’s most attended Park is the Magic Kingdom in Florida with just under 21 million visitors in 2018. Rounding out the top five in order are Disneyland in Anaheim, California (18.66 million), Tokyo Disneyland (17.91 million, Tokyo Disney Sea (14.65 million), and Universal Studios, Japan (14.3 million).

In total, Disney boasts six resort destinations with 12 theme parks and 53 resorts in the United States, Europe, and Asia. They also run a successful cruise line with four ships and plans for three more to be completed in 2021, 2022, and 2023.


Top Ten Largest Travel and Tourism Businesses
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7. Carnival Corporation & PLC

Country of Origin: USA

Revenue: 20.83 billion

Number of Employees: 120,000

Carnival Corporation & PLC holds the distinction of being the world’s largest leisure cruise line with a combined fleet of 102 ships visiting more than 700 ports all around the world. Carnival is a family-owned business. The company was founded by Ted Arnison in Miami in 1972 and is now shepherded by his son, Micky, who serves as chair of the board of directors.

Carnival runs a series of cruise line brands including Carnival Cruise Line, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises and Seabourn in North America; P&O Cruises (UK) and Cunard in Southampton, England; AIDA Cruises in Rostock, Germany; Costa Cruises in Genoa, Italy; and P&O Cruises (Australia) in Sydney. Together, these cruise lines attract nearly 11.5 million guests annually – approximately half of the total global cruise market. With 225,000 daily cruise guests and 100,000 shipboard employees, an estimated 325,000+ people are sailing aboard the Carnival Corporation fleet every single day.


Top Ten Largest Travel and Tourism Businesses
By User: (WT-shared) Shoestring at wts wikivoyage, CC BY-SA 1.0,

6. Flight Centre Travel Group

Country of Origin: Australia

Revenue: 21.8 billion

Number of Employees: 20,600

Flight Centre Travel Group was founded in Sydney in 1982 and currently stands as the largest retail travel agency in Australia. The business offers flight and vacation packages for leisure and business travellers. Flight Centre travel group is currently headquartered in Brisbane. It operates more than 2,800 retail outlets in Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, South Africa, Hong Kong, India, China, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates and Mexico with licence agreements in another 80 countries.

In 2018, Flight Centre Travel Group sold travel valued at approximately $60 million every day. This figure accounts for the accumulated efforts of their subsidiaries, which include FM Travel Solutions, Corporate Traveler Services, Stage & Screen Travel, CIevents, Liberty Travel, Travel Associates, Student Universe, Gogo Vacations and Flight Centre. The split between leisure travel and business travel was approximately 50-50.


Top Ten Largest Travel and Tourism Businesses
By Mr. Satterly – Own work, WTFPL,

5. CWT

Country of Origin: USA

Revenue: 25 billion

Number of Employees: 18,000

CWT is a Minnesota-based, family-controlled travel management company perhaps best known by its former name Carlson Wagonlit Travel, which was rebranded as CWT in February 2019. Its primary services include business travel, meetings, incentives, conferencing, exhibitions and event management.

CWT is majority-owned by Carlson Inc. which also owns several other businesses in the industry including Country Inn and Suites, was established by Minnesota native Curt Carlson in 1938. Carlson Inc. is now a family office owned by Curt’s children Marilyn Carlson Nelson, and Barbara Carlson Gage.

In 2018, CWT innovated their service by adding its Price Tracking tool, which monitors the price of booked airline tickets and automatically rebooks when prices fall. In 2019, CWT repositioned itself as a “business to business for employees” travel management platform.


Top Ten Largest Travel and Tourism Businesses
Stefge / CC BY (

4. BCD Travel

Country of Origin: Netherlands

Revenue: 27.1 billion

Number of Employees: 13,800

BCD Travel is a travel management company headquartered in Atlanta but is a subsidiary of the BCD Group located in the Netherlands. BCD Travel operates travel management services such as travel bookings, consulting and meetings and events in 109 countries around the world.

BCD Group was founded by Dutch entrepreneur John Fentener van Vlissingen, one of three brothers to break away from the established family business, SHV Holdings. In 2006, after a series of acquisitions, BCD Travel was launched.

In 2011, BCD Travel merged CheapTickets, Vliegwinkel, Flugladen, BudgetAir (Airtrade) and Vayama into a new group, Travix International B.V. Two years later they acquired Travelocity Business, followed by the addition of World Travel Service and


By mars110 – Foto, CC0,

3. Global Business Travel

Country of Origin: Netherlands

Unit Sales: 33.7 billion

Number of Employees: 17,400

Initially American Express Global Business Travel, GBT is a world leader in business travel planning and management. The business is incorporated in the Netherlands but is headquartered out of New Jersey. In 2014, American Express sold half of its ownership stake to Juweel Investors, an investor group led by Certares.

Global Business Travel offers local expertise in nearly 140 countries. This expertise lies in three main silos: Travel Management, Meetings & Events planning, and Travel Consulting Services. They provide travel management benchmarking and consulting services through the recently launched Peer Travel Insights.

In 2018, Global Business Travel acquired Hogg Robinson Group, a travel company with roots that trace back to the 19th Century.


Top Ten Largest Travel and Tourism Businesses
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2. Booking Holdings

Country of Origin: USA

Revenue: 92.7 billion

Number of Employees: 24,500

Booking Holdings is one of the largest online search and booking platforms for flights, lodging, dining, car rentals and other travel-related services. It is the current product of the corporate evolution that launched as in 1998. Today, Booking Holdings is headquartered in Norwalk, Connecticut and is traded publicly on the NASDAQ, NASDAQ-100, S&P 100 and S&P 500.

Booking Holdings’ main brands are,,,, Cheapflights,, Momondo, Mundi, and OpenTable.

In 2017, travellers booked 673.1 million room nights of accommodation, 73.0 million rental car days, and 6.9 million aeroplane tickets using websites owned by Booking Holdings. That year, 93.4 per cent Booking Holdings’ revenues were from commissions, while 6.6 per cent of revenues came from advertising.


Top Ten Largest Travel and Tourism Businesses
By Steven Byles from Singapore, Singapore – 9M-AFG A320-216 AirAsia, CC BY-SA 2.0,

1. Expedia Group

Country of Origin: USA

2018 Revenue: 99 billion

Number of Employees: 24,000

One of the most recognisable brand names in the tourism industry fell just short of $100 billion in total revenue to top our list of tourism businesses. The Expedia Group provides an online platform for various travel-related needs. The brands within the Expedia group include, Expedia Partner Solutions, Egencia, Trivago, HomeAway, Orbitz, Travelocity, Wotif,, eBookers, CheapTickets, Hotwire, Classic Vacations, Expedia Group Media Solutions,, Expedia Local Expert, Expedia CruiseShipCenters, SilverRail Technologies, Alice and Traveldoo.

Expedia began as a division within Microsoft in 1994 when they were looking to put travel information on a CD-Rom. Expedia founder Rich Barton saw an opportunity to create an online travel booking platform, something that did not exist at the time.  In 2018, the business changed its corporate name from Expedia, Inc. to Expedia Group, Inc.

Just under 69 per cent of Expedia Group’s 2018 revenue came from lodging, 8 per cent from airline bookings, 9.7 per cent from advertising and media, and 13 per cent from other sources.