U.S. Travel study finds steep drop in travel spend

According to a new study prepared for the U.S. Travel Association by Tourism Economics, total travel spending in the U.S. will likely drop 45 percent by the end of this year.

The report predicts domestic travel spending will drop 40 percent (from $972 billion in 2019 to $583 billion in 2020) while international inbound spending is expected to decline 75 percent ($155 billion to $39 billion).

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The numbers were released as U.S. Travel launched its first-ever "Virtual Hill Week," connecting nearly 300 members of the industry with House and Senate lawmakers in 75 online meetings to discuss travel priorities and needs. 

"The data is telling us that travel and tourism has been more severely damaged than any other U.S. industry by the economic fallout of the health crisis," said Tori Emerson Barnes, U.S. Travel Association EVP for public affairs and policy. "Given that travel employed one in 10 Americans and was the No. 2 U.S. export before the pandemic, supporting this industry through to the recovery phase ought to be a national priority.

“Our asks for lawmakers are substantial, but they're also simple: we need relief, protection and stimulus for the travel industry to make it past the worst of the crisis and help power an economic recovery.”

Among the policy priorities members of the travel industry will discuss in Congress this week:

  • Extending Paycheck Protection Program eligibility to destination marketing organizations. Though they are crucial engines of local and regional economic development, most DMOs are currently ineligible for aid because they carry a nonprofit or quasi-governmental designation.
  • Tax incentives for a strong and safe restart of the travel economy, including a temporary travel tax credit; restoring the business entertainment deduction; support for the hard-hit meetings and events sector; and tax credits for personal protective equipment and facilities sterilization.
  • Protection from frivolous COVID-related lawsuits for businesses that follow proper health and safety guidelines.
  • Provide a federal backstop for the issuance of pandemic risk insurance to give businesses financial cover from future outbreaks or another wave of infections—similar to the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act enacted after 9/11.