Chronicling 100 Years of the U.S. Economy

December 2020
Volume 100, Number 12

U.S. Travel and Tourism Satellite Account for 2015–2019

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The travel and tourism industry—as measured by the real output of goods and services sold directly to visitors—decelerated to 1.5 percent growth in 2019 after increasing 4.1 percent in 2018, according to the most recent statistics from the Travel and Tourism Satellite Account (TTSA) of the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA).1 By comparison, the broader economy, as measured by real gross domestic product (GDP), increased 2.2 percent in 2019 after increasing 3.0 percent in 2018. Revised statistics on travel and tourism reflect the incorporation of the annual update of the Industry Economic Accounts, which was released on September 30, 2020.2

Highlights from the TTSA include the following:

  • Real output increased in 19 of 24 commodities in 2019. The largest contributors to the increase included international passenger air transportation services, domestic passenger air transportation services, and automotive rental and leasing.
  • Real output growth slowed to 1.5 percent in 2019 from 4.1 percent in 2018, reflecting downturns in purchases of gasoline and food and beverage services, as well as decelerations in domestic passenger air transportation services and traveler accommodations.
  • Prices for tourism goods and services increased 1.4 percent in 2019. The largest contributor to the increase in 2019 was the price of traveler accommodations, which increased 3.0 percent and contributed 0.59 percentage point to tourism goods and services price growth.
  • Price growth slowed to 1.4 percent in 2019 from 3.0 percent in 2018, primarily reflecting a downturn in the price of gasoline.
The TTSA is available on the BEA website; see the box “Data Availability.”

The remainder of this article includes a discussion of trends in travel and tourism output and prices, tourism value added, and employment.

Value added

A sector’s value added measures its contribution to gross domestic product. In 2019, the travel and tourism industry’s share of GDP was 2.9 percent (table C). Travel and tourism accounted for a larger share of GDP than several industries, including broadcasting and telecommunications, utilities, mining, and agriculture.

Direct employment

Direct tourism employment refers to jobs that are directly related to visitor spending on goods and services. Airline pilots, hotel clerks, and travel agents are examples of such employees. Overall, direct employment increased 0.8 percent in 2019 after increasing 2.2 percent in 2018. The largest contributors to the increase were traveler accommodations, which added 29,000 jobs in 2019, and air transportation services, which added 15,000 jobs (chart 4 and table D).

Chart 4. Contributions to Annual Growth in 
Direct Tourism Employment in 2016–2019. Bar and Line Chart

[Click chart to expand]

Total employment

Total tourism-related employment (the sum of direct and indirect jobs) increased to 9.5 million jobs in 2019 from 9.4 million jobs in 2018. The 9.5 million jobs consisted of 6.1 million direct tourism jobs and 3.4 million indirect tourism jobs (chart 5). While direct tourism employment includes jobs that produce direct tourism output, such as airline pilots, indirect tourism employment is also generated by the businesses that supply goods and services to the tourism sector, such as refinery workers producing jet fuel. The most recent data indicate that for every 100 jobs supported directly by the travel and tourism industry, an additional 55 indirect tourism jobs are also required.

Chart 5. Total Tourism-Related 
Employment in 2016–2019. Bar Chart

[Click chart to expand]

 


  1. All measures of travel and tourism activity not identified as being in “real,” inflation-adjusted terms are current-dollar estimates.
  2. For more information see, “The 2020 Annual Update of the Industry Economic Accounts: Revised Statistics for 2015–2019 and the First Quarter of 2020,Survey of Current Business 100 (October 2020).