U.S. Travel and Tourism Satellite Account for 2017–2021

The travel and tourism industry—as measured by the real output of goods and services sold directly to visitors—increased 64.4 percent in 2021 after decreasing 50.7 percent in 2020, 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), increased 5.9 percent in 2021 after decreasing 2.8 percent in 2020. Revised statistics on travel and tourism reflect the incorporation of the annual update of the National Economic Accounts, which was released on September 29, 2022.2

Highlights from the TTSA include the following:

  • As the industry entered the recovery period of the COVID–19 pandemic, travel and tourism's share of GDP increased from 1.54 percent in 2020 to 2.15 percent in 2021 (table A).
  • The travel and tourism industry's real output increased $362.0 billion in 2021 but has not fully recovered from the pandemic. Travel and tourism’s real output for 2021 was 81.1 percent of its 2019 level (table B).
    • The increase in 2021 is the largest expansion in real output since BEA began measuring these statistics in 1998.
    • In 2021, real output increased for 21 of 24 commodities. The largest contributors to the increase were food and beverage services and shopping.
  • Prices for travel and tourism goods and services increased 7.7 percent in 2021 after decreasing 5.0 percent in 2020. The largest contributors to the increase were gasoline, traveler accommodations, and automotive rental and leasing (table C).
  • 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, prices, value added, and employment.

Value added

A sector's value added measures its share of gross domestic product. The travel and tourism industry's share of GDP was 2.15 percent in 2021, 1.54 percent in 2020, and 2.99 in 2019 (table A). This pattern indicates that travel and tourism industries contracted and expanded disproportionately to non-travel and tourism industries during the COVID–19 pandemic.

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 by 1.3 million jobs in 2021 after decreasing by 2.9 million jobs in 2020. The largest contributors to the 2021 increase were food services and drinking places, which gained 730,000 jobs in 2021; shopping, which gained 206,000 jobs; and participant sports, which gained 86,000 jobs (chart 4 and table D).

Total employment

Total tourism-related employment (the sum of direct and indirect jobs) increased to 7.4 million jobs in 2021 from 5.5 million jobs in 2020. The 7.4 million jobs consisted of 4.8 million direct tourism jobs and 2.6 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. Data for 2021 indicate that for every 100 jobs supported directly by the travel and tourism industry, an additional 53 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, or nominal, estimates.
  2. For more information see “The 2022 Annual Update of the National Economic Accounts,” Survey of Current Business 102 (November 2022).