WASHINGTON – Travel spending by Americans plunged by 42%, or $492 billion, in 2020, according to a report by an industry group, amid social, travel and business restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19.
The U.S. Travel Association said the industry shed 5.6 million direct and indirect jobs last year, and the decline in travel dragged down total economic output to $1.5 trillion, from 2019’s $2.6 trillion. U.S. tax revenue collected from travel plummeted by $57 billion in 2020.
“While the gradual progress of vaccinations has provided hope that a turnaround may be on the horizon, it is still unclear when travel demand will be able to fully rebound on its own,” said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow.
As millions of Americans get vaccinated and travel destinations begin to reopen, the industry is optimistic that demand will return this spring. Disney said Wednesday its California theme parks will reopen April 30.
Last year, U.S. passenger airline traffic sank 60.1% to the lowest since 1984, while Americans took far fewer road trips as millions stayed home instead of commuting.
In total, there were 368 million air passengers in 2020, down from 922.6 million in 2019. U.S. driving fell by 430.2 billion miles, or 13%, to 2.83 trillion total miles in 2020, its lowest level since 2001.
Business and international travel were especially hard hit and have been slower to recover. The United States still imposes restrictions that bar the entry of nearly all non-U.S. citizens who have recently been in Brazil, South Africa and much of Europe.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still recommends Americans avoid all nonessential travel, even for those who have been vaccinated.
However, more Americans are resuming travel.
The Transportation Security Administration said last week it screened 1.357 million U.S. airport passengers on Friday, the highest number screened since March 15, 2020 in the early weeks of the pandemic, as air travel begins to rebound.
Travel-related employment has been rebounding this year as some pandemic restrictions have been lifted. In February, employment in leisure and hospitality increased by 355,000 jobs.
FILE PHOTO: Passengers arrive on a flight from London amid new restrictions to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at JFK International Airport in New York City, U.S., December 21, 2020. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz