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1 May, 2024

As the global Arms Bazaar booms, Travel & Tourism pays the price

Bangkok — On 23 April 2024, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) published its annual World Military Expenditure report for 2023. It showed that the Arms Bazaar raked in $2,443 billion, the highest level ever. The figure was up 6.8% over 2022, up for the 9th consecutive year and the steepest year-on-year rise since 2009.

US military spending was $916 billion in 2023, up 2.3% over 2022 and 9.9% over  2014. The USA remained by far the largest spender, allocating 3.1 times more to the military than the second largest spender, China.

Does Travel & Tourism, the so-called “Industry of Peace”, realise the staggering implications of these obscene figures on its own future? That’s only one of several questions which cropped up when I read the report. More follow below.

But first, check out some more mind-blowing stats and quotes from the report:

(+) The world military burden — defined as military spending as a percentage of global gross domestic product (GDP) — increased to 2.3 per cent in 2023. Average miltary expenditure as a share of government expenditure rose by 0.4 percentage points to 6.9 per cent in 2023 and world military spending per person was the highest since 1990, at $306.

(+) The rise in global military spending in 2023 can be attributed primarily to the ongoing war in Ukraine and escalating geopolitical tensions in Asia and Oceania and the Middle East. Military expenditure went up in all five geographical regions, with major spending increases recorded in Europe, Asia and Oceania and the Middle East.

(+) The two largest spenders, the United States and China, accounted for around half of global military spending in 2023. Together, the top 10 in 2023 accounted for almost three quarters (74%) of the world total, or $1799 billion, which was $105 billion more than the previous year.

(+) In 2023 all countries in the top 10 increased their miltary spending. The biggest percentage increase among this group was in Ukraine. Its miltary spending went up by 51% to $64.8 billion and it moved from 11th largest spender in 2022 to 8th largest in 2023.

(+) The biggest percentage increase among all US miltary spending categories in 2023 was for ‘research, development, test and evaluation’ (RDT&E). The USA spent 9.4 per cent more in real terms on RDT&E than in 2022. The USA has prioritised RDT&E spending, in relative terms, over all other military spending categories since around 2014. This aligns with its decision to shift its focus away from counterinsurgency operations and asymmetric warfare to developing new weapon systems that could be used in a potential conflict with adversaries with advanced military capabilities.

Questions for Travel & Tourism

If Travel & Tourism, the so-called “industry of peace”, recognises that global wars are not good for its health and future prospects, it may need to do some soul-searching about who is benefitting from those wars. Here are some questions to set the thought-process rolling, especially for the young generation whose future is on the line:

(=) What are the implications of this obscene expenditure for global security, stability and safety?

(=) Is this bottomless pit of money making the world any safer and saner?

(=) While the world is grappling with climate change, pandemics, poverty and an assortment of other problems, why should the merchants of death get away with making money hand over fist?

(=) What is the human cost? How many deaths, injuries and casualties are occurring daily? How many families are being bereaved?

(=) Who will take care of the legions of physically and mentally handicapped and severely traumatised people, the orphans and refugees?

(=) What is the environmental cost? How many pristine areas are being devastated to dig up the precious metals?

(=) If the funding was to be cut back by even 1% and diverted to more productive uses, how could it benefit the UN Sustainable Development Goals?

(=) How many schools, hospitals, water-wells, could be built? How much could it contribute to funding alternative energies and alleviating poverty?

(=) Who is fanning the flames of the conflicts which prop up the Arms Bazaar? As even the relatively less well-off countries are being forced to join the arms race, for how long can they continue?

(=) Does Travel & Tourism see this worth mulling in industry forums ? Or is it only interested in the business benefits? After all, arms dealers boost the MICE sector and spend lavishly on sponsorship, travel and entertainment.

(=) And finally, should the young generation just dump the low-paying, insecure and unstable Travel & Tourism industry and join one with guaranteed growth prospects?

My impression that Travel & Tourism CEOs, gurus, “futurists, visionaries and thought-leaders” don’t give a damn.

I will leave it here.

Click here to download the report.