U.S. travel could bring in $2 trillion in 2022

The United States’ travel and tourism sector could exceed its pre-pandemic economic contribution in 2022, reaching $2 trillion, according to a report from the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC). 

In 2019, the U.S. travel and tourism sector GDP contribution represented nearly $1.9 trillion, or 8.6% of the U.S. economy, and fell to $1.1 trillion in 2020, when the pandemic brought international travel to an almost complete standstill. 

The WTTC found that the U.S. tourism sector could grow by 35.6% in 2021, outpacing the overall global tourism recovery, which is set to see a 30.7% year-over-year increase in 2021.

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Much of that comes from the pandemic surge in U.S. domestic travel. Domestic travel spending will increase 40.4% ($261 billion) in 2021, with a further year-over-year rise of 22.9% expected in 2022.

“Our research shows that while the global travel and tourism sector is slowly beginning to recover, the U.S. is recovering faster than many other regions,” said WTTC CEO Julia Simpson. “Last year, the pandemic decimated more than 5 million travel and tourism jobs across the U.S.; however, due to a predicted rise in international and domestic spend this year and next, both jobs and GDP are on the rise.”

The WTTC report predicts that although international spending by travelers in the U.S. is set to grow by a mere 1.9% this year due to the pandemic, the recent lifting of travel restrictions could provide a significant year-over-year boost of almost 228% in 2022, representing an increase of $98 billion and total contribution of $141 billion.

“The U.S. opening its borders and easing restrictions to major source markets such as the U.K. and the EU will provide a massive boost to economies on both sides of the Atlantic,” Simpson said. “However, the long-term recovery of the sector in the U.S. and around the world depends on U.S. borders remaining open to international visitors and making travel easier.”

The WTTC said governments worldwide should facilitate global travel by allowing fully vaccinated travelers to move freely, irrespective of their origin or eventual destination. The organization is also calling on digital solutions to enable travelers to easily prove their Covid status and speed up border crossings.

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