Survey of Current Business
November 2019
Volume 99, Number 11

U.S. Travel and Tourism Satellite Account for 1998–2018


The travel and tourism industry—as measured by the real output of goods and services sold directly to visitors—increased 4.2 percent in 2018, according to the most recent statistics from the Travel and Tourism Satellite Account (TTSA) published by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). This is an acceleration from the 2.3 percent growth in 2017. These new statistics show growth in the travel and tourism industry for the last 9 years. Employment in the travel and tourism industry grew more slowly than real output, growing 1.5 percent in 2018.

Other highlights from the TTSA include:

  • Real output increased 4.2 percent in 2018. This growth was driven by increases in domestic passenger air transportation, gasoline, and traveler accommodations.
  • Overall growth accelerated from the 2.3 percent growth in 2017. The drivers of the acceleration were increased growth in gasoline, food and beverage services, and domestic passenger air transportation.
  • Prices for tourism goods and services increased 2.9 percent in 2018. Driving this increase was an increase in gasoline and domestic and international passenger air transportation services.

These TTSA statistics incorporated newly available source data from BEA Industry Economic Accounts (IEAs) and National Income and Product Accounts (NIPAs) and several methodological improvements that were incorporated in the comprehensive update of the IEAs. These statistics also incorporated the most recent annual update to the IEAs that was released October 29th, 2019. The incorporation of the annual update allowed this release of the TTSA to contain the full suite of products for 2018 as well as revised estimates for the full set of accounts from 1998–2017.

The complete set of detailed annual statistics for 1998 through 2018 are available on the BEA website.

The remainder of this article includes a discussion of trends in travel and tourism output and prices, tourism value added, and employment. The final section discusses changes in methodology in this update.

Value added and employment are presented by industry in the TTSA and facilitate analysis of the travel and tourism estimates in an industry dimension.

Value added

A sector’s value added measures its contribution to gross domestic product (GDP). In 2018, travel and tourism’s share of GDP was 2.9 percent. The share of GDP peaked in 2000 at 3.1 percent. In 2004, the share started a decline until 2010 at 2.5 percent. From 2010 to 2015, the share rose every year to 2.8 percent, and the share reached 2.9 percent in 2018 (table C). Travel and tourism’s share of GDP remains larger than many significant industries, such as agriculture, mining, or utilities.

Direct employment

Direct tourism employment includes jobs that involve producing goods and services that are sold directly to visitors. Airline pilots, hotel clerks, and travel agents are examples of such positions. Overall, direct employment increased 1.5 percent in 2018, or by 90,000 jobs. This was driven by growth in employment for traveler accommodations, food services and drinking places, and participant sports. Traveler accommodations added 25,000 jobs, food services and drinking places added 13,000 jobs, and participant sports added 14,000 jobs (chart 4 and table D).

Chart 4. Contributions to Annual Growth in Direct Tourism Employment in 2015–2018. Bar and Line Chart.

[Click chart to expand]

Total employment

Total tourism-related employment (the sum of direct and indirect jobs) increased from 9.0 million jobs in 2017 to 9.2 million jobs in 2018. The 9.2 million jobs were comprised of 5.9 million direct tourism jobs and 3.3 million indirect tourism jobs (chart 5). Indirect tourism jobs consist of jobs related to the production of goods and services that supply the tourism industry, such as refinery workers producing jet fuel. The updated statistics indicate that for every 100 jobs supported directly from travel and tourism, an additional 55 jobs are needed to support the industry.

Chart 5. Total Tourism-Related Employment in 2015–2018. Bar Chart.

[Click chart to expand]

These revised and newly available travel and tourism statistics primarily reflect the incorporation of the 2018 comprehensive update of the IEAs, released on November 1st, 2018.1 This comprehensive update incorporated updated definitions and classifications as well as statistical changes, including improved methodologies and newly available and revised source data. Combined with new and revised travel- and tourism-specific source data, these improvements allow the travel and tourism accounts to more accurately capture the dynamics of this sector. Comprehensive updates, which occur every 5 years, go beyond annual updates by introducing improvements to the entire IEA time series. Major changes introduced with this latest update include the following:

  • Full integration of the 2012 benchmark Input-Output Accounts and the annual IEAs.
  • Updated industry and commodity definitions consistent with the 2012 North American Industry Classification System.
  • Updated wage and salary employment multipliers from the BEA Regional Input-Output Modeling System II program, which are used to measure total employment.


  1. For more information, see Thomas F. Howells III, Edward T. Morgan, and Casey Ross, “Improved Estimates of the Industry Economic Accounts,” Survey of Current Business 98 (December 2018).