World services exports rose 17% year-on-year during 2021, according to statistics from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
The high growth confirms a solid recovery from the pandemic-related slump in 2020.
Still, world exports had been higher in 2019 than the $6.1 trillion reached in 2021.
In particular, transport exports rose strongly during 2021, at an annual rate of 35%, driven by renewed demand and rising transport costs.
International travel struggled to recover, holding at only 42% of its 2019 value.
Regionally, Latin America and the Caribbean recorded the highest annual growth in services exports (25 percent), followed by Africa (21 percent) and Asia and Oceania (20 percent).
Imports also grew faster in Latin America and the Caribbean (22 percent) than in the other regions compared.
Most regions recorded above-average growth rates in 2021, following significant declines during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Travel, once the most traded services category, ranked only fifth in 2021 ($615 billion).
Meanwhile, miscellaneous business services ranked first, accounting for more than a quarter of total services sold internationally ($1.596 billion).
Transportation ranked second ($1.158 trillion), followed by telecommunications, computer and information services ($896 billion).
Services exports in Europe and North America were even more dominated by business, financial, insurance and intellectual property-related services than in the pre-pandemic years. Sales of telecommunications and computer services also continued to have a strong weight in 2021.
Exports of services by region and service-category, 2021
With rising transport costs, the share of transport in total Asia-Oceania services exports rose from 19% in 2019 to 26% in 2021 (51% annual growth).
Compared to the pre-pandemic year 2019, global transport exports increased 11% in 2021.
The regions benefiting most from this trend were Asia -especially East, Southeast and West Asia- and Europe. While Asia’s passenger transport exports remained at pandemic levels in 2021, Europe’s increased 37% compared to 2020, reaching half the value of 2019.