Travel is trade. Travel is commerce. Travel is jobs.

As I’m fond of saying: travel is trade, and the latest announcement from the White House underscores the value of travel in fueling a strong and growing economy.

U.S. gross domestic product grew at a 3.2% annual rate in the first quarter—in the words of White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow, a “blowout number.” We applaud the administration for keeping economic growth and the prosperity of all Americans at the forefront of its agenda.  

This tremendous start to the year—the best since 2015—was boosted, in part, by the strength of exports. Some may not immediately think of travel as an export, but it is one of the most vital industries the U.S. can “sell”—or trade—to the world. When international visitors come to the U.S. and spend their money here, it is considered an export even if the transaction takes place on U.S. soil.

In 2018, 80 million visitors to the U.S. spent $256 billion. While the U.S. economy as a whole posted a deficit, the travel industry enjoyed an impressive trade surplus of $69 billion. Without travel, that deficit would have been 11% larger.  

As the industry looks ahead to National Travel and Tourism Week, we have a lot to celebrate—and lawmakers should take note. In 2018, domestic travelers spent $933 billion in the U.S. and supported 7.7 million American jobs. While international inbound travel is slowing down, leisure travel will continue to be the main driver of growth in the travel industry, and by extension, the economy as a whole. While this is great news on the domestic front, we can still do better. About 86% of Americans say they have not seen enough of their own country: prioritizing pro-travel, pro-growth policies that encourage domestic travelers to get out and see America can help boost the economy even further.

A vibrant travel industry is the key to our country’s future economic growth and prosperity: let’s keep the U.S. economy roaring by encouraging visitors both at home and abroad to see all that America has to offer.