Survey of Current Business

Survey of Current Business
Chronicling 100 Years of the U.S. Economy

February 2022
Volume 102, Number 2

U.S. Travel and Tourism Satellite Account for 1999–2020

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The travel and tourism industry—as measured by the real output of goods and services sold directly to visitors—decreased 48.0 percent in 2020 after increasing 1.0 percent in 2019, according to the most recent statistics from the Travel and Tourism Satellite Account (TTSA) of the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA).1 By comparison, the broader economy, as measured by real gross domestic product (GDP), decreased 3.4 percent in 2020 after increasing 2.3 percent in 2019. Revised statistics on travel and tourism reflect the incorporation of the annual update of the Industry Economic Accounts, which was released on September 30, 2021.2

Highlights from the TTSA include the following:

  • This is the largest contraction in real output since the TTSA began measuring these statistics in 1998.
  • Travel and tourism's share of GDP fell from 2.92 percent in 2019 to a historic low of 1.71 percent in 2020. It remains larger than agriculture, mining, and utilities.
  • The full economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic cannot be quantified in the TTSA estimates for 2020 because the impacts are generally embedded in source data and cannot be separately identified.
  • Real output decreased in each of 24 commodities in 2020. The largest contributors to the decrease included gasoline, domestic passenger air transportation services, food and beverage services, and traveler accommodations.
  • Prices for tourism goods and services decreased 4.8 percent in 2020. The largest contributor to the decrease in 2020 was the price of traveler accommodations, followed by the price of domestic passenger air transportation services, and the price of gasoline.
  • Price growth turned down from 1.4 percent in 2019 to −4.8 percent in 2020.
  • 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 decreased to 1.7 percent from 2.9 percent (table C). While this indicates that travel and tourism industries are contracting disproportionately to non-travel and tourism industries, travel and tourism continued to account for a larger share of GDP than several industries, including 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 decreased 36.0 percent in 2020, after decreasing 0.5 percent in 2019. The largest contributors to the decrease were food services and drinking places, which lost 822,000 jobs in 2020; traveler accommodations, which lost 482,000 jobs; gasoline, which lost 152,000 jobs; and participant sports and air transportation services, which lost 137,000 and 133,000 jobs respectively (chart 4 and table D).

Total employment

Total tourism-related employment (the sum of direct and indirect jobs) decreased to 6.3 million jobs in 2020 from 9.5 million jobs in 2019. The 6.3 million jobs consisted of 3.9 million direct tourism jobs and 2.4 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 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 61 indirect tourism jobs are also required.

 


  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 2021 Annual Update of the Industry Economic Accounts: Revised Statistics for 1999–2020 and the First Quarter of 2021,” Survey of Current Business 101 (October 2021).