MIAMI — The annual Economic Impact Report (EIR) from the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) reports the U.S. travel and tourism sector suffered a significant loss of $766 billion in 2020 in total GDP losses, including direct, indirect, and induced impacts.
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% decrease to the sector’s GDP contribution. With the United States 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.
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 United States 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.
Gloria Guevara, president & CEO WTTC, said, “Travel and tourism plays a pivotal role in supplying both jobs and financial gains to the overall U.S. economy. The industry’s decline due to the pandemic has been felt across the board for families, business owners, and tour operators who rely on a thriving sector for their livelihood. A restart of international travel will create more employment opportunities and empower a resurgence of the country’s economy. Our research shows that if mobility and international travel resumes by summer this year, the sector’s contribution to global travel and tourism GDP could rise sharply in 2021.”
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, which make up 80 percent of all travel and tourism businesses, significantly impacted. Furthermore, as one of the world’s most diverse sectors, the impact on women, youth, and minorities was significant.
The revival of travel and tourism businesses in the U.S. private sector will boost gains across the industry as a key component to the overall financial contributions that move public initiatives and campaigns forward.
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.
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. The $14 billion allocated to airlines, as stipulated in the earlier announced 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 applauds the Biden administration’s swift action to effectively fight against COVID-19 through a robust vaccine rollout, firm stance on mask wearing to prevent further spread, and providing a much-needed stimulus to the travel and tourism sector. These steps are crucial in restarting international travel and reinvigorating the U.S. economy through the travel sector,” continued Guevara.
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 United States 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 is confident that the Biden administration will continue to work closely with the private sector in its efforts to restore international travel.
“WTTC supports the recent announcements by the CDC regarding the effectiveness with vaccinations that will allow travelers to move around safely and hopes to see the health organization get behind a more standardized approach to help travel restart safely and seamlessly. While the vaccine rollout across the United States has started to boost confidence in travel again, WTTC strongly believes that the key to safely unlocking the sector by this summer, and in turn reviving millions of jobs, lies within a comprehensive testing regime for non-vaccinated travelers, mandatory mask wearing, and enhanced health and hygiene protocols across the board,” said Guevara.
The safe reopening of the travel and tourism sector within the United States 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.