Domestic Travel Spend Will Be Nearly Halved in 2020

Armed with its latest forecast, the U.S. Travel Association is urging the current Congress to pass new relief measures.

Coronavirus and Meetings
Head here to see Northstar Meetings Group’s comprehensive and continuing coverage of how the pandemic is affecting meetings

Updated Nov. 17, 2020.

Travel spending in the United States in 2020 is projected to be $617 billion, a 45 percent drop from the $1.13 trillion spent in 2019, according to the U.S. Travel Association's latest forecast. The report also signals that spending won't come close to its prepandemic strength until 2024.

The losses reflect a 34 percent drop in domestic leisure-travel spending, as well as greater slumps in domestic business travel revenues (55 percent) and international inbound (77 percent) spending.

The drop-off has hit the travel industry hard: Nearly 40 percent (3.5 million) of travel jobs have disappeared over the past seven months, according to U.S. Travel. Another 1 million are expected to vanish by year’s end.

In an effort to restore lost jobs and forestall further cuts in the travel industry, U.S. Travel is calling for the current Congress to act now, rather than waiting for the new administration and federal lawmakers to take office in January.

"A lot of businesses that need help to retain and rehire their people won’t be there in January if we wait until the next Congress to get more aid passed," said U.S. Travel Association president and CEO Roger Dow. "The pain among travel employers is extremely acute, and so is the frustration that Washington has been unable to act so far, given the size and obviousness of this problem." 

U.S. Travel continues to recommend specific policy actions that should be pursued by Congress immediately to protect the industry from further economic damage and job loss. The legislative relief requests include:

  • Enhancing and extending the Paycheck Protection Program until the end of the year, expanding eligibility to include CVBs, increasing the loan amount and allowing for a second loan;
  • Enhancing and extending the Coronavirus Relief Fund through at least the end of 2021; and
  • Providing additional emergency assistance to U.S. airports.

"Our asks of Congress are big because the problem is massive, and is only growing right before our eyes," said Dow in July. "Travel businesses could not possibly have prepared for this level of catastrophe, and there's no telling how many of the [millions of] jobs we've lost so far will remain gone for good without aggressive federal intervention to keep the industry on life support."