WASHINGTON—Travel spending in the U.S. is expected to finish the year 45% down from 2019 levels and will still not have returned to its pre-pandemic strength by 2024, according to the latest figures released by the U.S. Travel Association.
The new 2020 projected travel spending figure of $617 billion is slightly worse than U.S. Travel’s previous forecast released in July ($622 billion)—and is a precipitous drop from the $1.13 trillion spent on travel in the U.S. overall in 2019.
The nosedive reflects a decline of 34% in domestic leisure travel spending—but even sharper drop-offs in the lucrative domestic business (55%) and international inbound (77%) markets.
Travel is by far the industry hardest hit by the ongoing fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, currently accounting for 33% of overall unemployment in the U.S. Nearly 40%—3.5 million—of all direct travel jobs have vanished over the past seven months, even after taking into account modest growth over the summer. Another million direct travel jobs—bringing the total to 4.5 million or 50% of pre-pandemic levels—are expected to disappear by year’s end without another round of congressional relief.
It is unknown how many of those job losses will become permanent. Large numbers of travel businesses were unable to access early rounds of federal pandemic relief—and many businesses that did receive temporary aid have exhausted their relief funds.
Washington’s inability to reach a deal on a new round of relief prior to the November 3rd election further devasted the travel industry, and travel leaders are strongly urging policymakers not to wait for the new Congress and administration to take office before advancing another package.
“A lot of businesses that need help to retain and rehire their people won’t be there in January if we wait until the next Congress to get more aid passed,” said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow. “The pain among travel employers is extremely acute, and so is the frustration that Washington has been unable to act so far given the size and obviousness of this problem.”
U.S. Travel continues to recommend specific policy actions that should be pursued by Congress immediately to help stave off further economic damage and job loss, among them:
- Enhance and extend the Paycheck Protection Program through the end of 2021, allow for a second draw on loans, and expand eligibility to include 501(c)(6) and quasi-governmental destination marketing organizations.
- Enhance and extend the Coronavirus Relief Fund through at least the end of 2021.
- Provide additional emergency assistance to U.S. airports.