The Travel Industry’s Vital Role in Bolstering Our Economy
April 26, 2023 By Aaron Szyf, Economist , U.S. Travel Association
The industry’s outsized role in bolstering the U.S. economy is clear. Direct travel spending totaled $1.2 trillion in 2022, which produced an economic footprint of $2.6 trillion—a return to 2019 levels. Travel directly employed 8 million Americans and supported nearly 15 million jobs.
However, while impressive, these numbers should be even higher. When adjusted for inflation, total travel spending has only recovered to 86% of pre-pandemic levels. Direct travel jobs are still one million short of what they totaled in 2019.
- Zoom in: Domestic leisure travel continued to be a main contributor to the industry’s growth in 2022, propelling the entire travel industry. Even when adjusted for inflation, domestic leisure travel spending returned to 99% of pre-pandemic levels. Business travel and international inbound travel, however, remain too far behind.
By the numbers: In 2022, travelers directly spent $1.2 trillion. Leisure travel accounted for the vast majority of this spending ($930 million including both domestic and international), while business travelers spent $255 million—of which nearly $100 billion was spent by those traveling for meetings and events.
- When adjusted for inflation, domestic leisure travel was nearly back to pre-pandemic levels, yet domestic business travel spending was just 74% recovered and international travel spending was only 55% recovered.
The bottom line: Travel’s economic impact in 2022 was substantial—undoubtedly strengthening the overall economy. It’s clear: The industry has staged a remarkable comeback.
But there is still more to be done. Reaching travel’s full potential—not just back to pre-pandemic levels when adjusted for inflation, but also to where the industry should have been by 2022 and beyond—requires an approach that takes every industry segment into consideration. International inbound travel, business transient, business meetings and events and leisure travel must continue to make more headway in their recovery to enable our industry to return to a continuous state of growth.
Our role: U.S. Travel will continue to advocate for the full return—and continued growth—of all key travel segments.
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