In 2019, the U.S. Travel and tourism sector accrued a GDP of nearly $1.9 trillion; however, WTTC’s research found that in 2020, a year in which the COVID-19 pandemic devastated the industry, the country saw a 41 percent decrease to the sector’s GDP contribution. With the U.S. being the largest travel and tourism economy in the world, the country’s recovery plays an important role in the rebound of the sector on a global level, WTTC added.
According to the report, travel and tourism supported more than 16.5 million jobs (10.5 percent of total U.S. employment) in 2019. In 2020, travel and tourism jobs within the U.S. declined 33.2 percent to 11.1 million (7.5 percent of total U.S. employment). Globally, the sector saw a decrease of a staggering 62 million (18.5 percent) jobs in 2020 alone.
International and domestic travel play a key role in the U.S. economy regaining strength. The loss in traveler spend and unemployment has been felt across the entire country, with small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which make up 80 percent of all travel and tourism businesses, significantly affected. Furthermore, as one of the world’s most diverse sectors, the impact on women, youth and minorities was significant, according to WTTC.
The country’s domestic travel spend saw less of a drastic change with a decrease of 37.1 percent, while international visitor spend dropped by 76.7 percent in 2020—decreasing from $181.2 billion in 2019 to just $42.2 billion in 2020.
With that said, the U.S. market and global travel and tourism sector is steadily trending in the right direction for recovery due to the efforts of the Biden Administration, says the WTTC. The $14 billion allocated to airlines, as stipulated in the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, coupled with the rapid pace of vaccine rollouts, presents opportunities for companies within the sector to regain losses and reinstate job positions across the industry.
WTTC believes that if international travel is resumed by June this year, it will provide the boost necessary to bring back job opportunities in the U.S. and jumpstart gains in the economy.
The global tourism body also believes that public and private collaboration is key to reviving the sector, and following the recent meeting with business leaders, WTTC says it is confident that the Biden Administration will continue to work closely with the private sector in its efforts to restore international travel.
The safe reopening of the travel and tourism sector within the U.S. and globally is the pathway forward. A clear and consistent framework around comprehensive testing pre-departure for all non-vaccinated travelers, enhanced health and safety protocols, and mandatory mask wearing will work to restart the sector.