The U.S. travel and tourism sector could experience year-over-year growth of 35.6 percent in 2021, significantly outpacing the year’s overall global tourism recovery, with the outlooks looking even rosier for 2022. This was revealed in the latest research from the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC).
Based on the research, produced in partnership with Oxford Economics, in 2021, the U.S. travel and tourism sector can expect a year-over-year growth of just over one-third, representing an increase of $393 billion, for a total contribution of nearly $1.5 trillion to the U.S. GDP. In comparison, the global economy is set to receive a 30.7 percent year-over-year increase from the travel & tourism sector in 2021.
At the current recovery rate, in 2022, the U.S. could experience a further year-over-year growth of 28.4 percent, representing an increase of $425 billion and bringing the sector’s total contribution to the U.S. economy beyond pre-pandemic levels at over $1.9 trillion. According to the research, the nation’s economy has benefited from a rise in domestic travel, with spending set to increase 40.4 percent ($261 billion) in 2021, with a further year-over-year rise of 22.9 percent expected in 2022.
Although international spending by travelers in the U.S. is set to grow by a mere 1.9 percent this year due to prolonged travel restrictions throughout the year, recent changes to international travel restrictions will provide a significant year-over-year boost of almost 228 percent in 2022, representing an increase of $98 billion and total contribution of $141 billion.
The research also showed that after the U.S. travel sector’s loss of more than 5.5 million jobs last year, employment is set to rise by 26.2 percent in 2021, representing an increase of 2.9 million jobs and total contribution of nearly 14 million jobs. In comparison, 2019 contribution represented more than 16.5 million jobs. In 2022, employment is set to increase a further 19.7 percent, representing a year-over-year increase of 2.75 million jobs and bringing total jobs across the U.S. travel & tourism sector above pre-pandemic levels at 16.72 million jobs.
“Our research shows that while the global travel & tourism sector is slowly beginning to recover, the U.S. is recovering faster than many other regions,” said Julia Simpson, WTTC President & CEO, in a press note. “Last year, the pandemic decimated more than five million travel & tourism jobs across the U.S.; however, due to a predicted rise in international and domestic spend this year and next, both jobs and GDP are on the rise.”
Simpson added, “The U.S. opening its borders and easing restrictions to major source markets such as the U.K. and the E.U. will provide a massive boost to economies on both sides of the Atlantic. However, the long-term recovery of the sector in the U.S and around the world depends on the U.S. border remaining open to international visitors and making travel easier.”
According to the research, the sector’s contribution to the U.S. GDP and the rise in jobs could be more positive this year and next, especially if governments worldwide put some measures in place to facilitate global travel. These measures include:
Travel and tourism’s contribution to GDP could rise by 40.9 percent (more than $450 billion) by the end of this year, followed by a year-over-year increase of a further 30.9 percent ($480 billion) in 2022. This would equate to a $165 billion increase in contribution to the U.S. economy compared to pre-pandemic levels. International spending would also benefit from government action, and experience a growth of 5.4 percent this year, and a significant boost of 253 percent in 2022. The sector’s growth could also have a positive impact on employment, with a 31.1 percent increase in jobs in 2021.
And with the right measures to support travel and tourism, the number of those employed in the sector next year could surpass pre-pandemic levels in 2022, with a year-over-year increase of 22 percent, reaching more than 17.7 million jobs.
Jim Hepple is an Assistant Professor at the University of Aruba and is Managing Director of Tourism Analytics.