The Travel, Tourism and Hospitality Industry in the United States

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The U.S. Travel, Tourism, and Hospitality Industry

American flag on a road sign in the prairieThe travel and tourism industry in the United States generated nearly $1.4 trillion in economic output in 2011. This activity supported 7.5 million U.S. jobs, and accounted for 7 percent of all U.S. exports. One out of every 18 Americans works, either directly or indirectly, in a travel or tourism-related industry. In 2010, revenues from U.S. travel and tourism represented 2.6 percent of gross domestic product.

While the majority of activity in the industry is domestic, expenditures by international visitors to the United States generated $153 billion in sales and a nearly $43 billion trade surplus in 2011. The U.S. Department of Commerce projects international travel to the United States will grow by 3.8 to5 percent annually through 2016. The U.S. leads the world in international travel and tourism exports, and travel and tourism is the top services export, accounting for 25 percent of all U.S. services exports.  

Industry Subsectors

Of the more than 25 subsectors that make up the travel and tourism industry, four sectors -- food services, air travel, accommodations, and recreation and attractions -- account for more than 60 percent of total output.

 Accommodations: This subsector is the largest of the four and accounts for 19 percent of total travel industry sales. Accommodations benefited from international overseas traveler growth of 6 percent in 2011. 

Air Travel: This subsector is the second largest and accounts for 16 percent of travel industry sales. Airlines continuously seek ways to increase revenue by offering access to new markets as they work to reduce costs and fuel consumption by grounding inefficient aircraft and scaling back unprofitable routes.

Food Services: This subsector accounts for 16 percent of travel industry sales. The National Restaurant Association predicts 3.5 percent growth for the restaurant industry in 2012. 

Recreation and Attractions: This subsector accounts for only 10 percent of total travel industry sales as attraction visitation has been in decline.

Federal Resources

Travel Promotion Act of 2009 (TPA): This Act established the Corporation for Travel Promotion, a new public-private partnership in travel and tourism. The alliance between the U.S. government and the U.S. travel and tourism industry enhances the distribution of information on U.S. entry policies and promotes leisure, business, and scholarly travel in and to the United States.  According to a joint report issued by Oxford Economics and the U.S. Travel Association in February 2010, it was estimated that the travel promotion program undertaken by the Corporation for Travel Promotion established under the TPA will generate $4 billion in new visitor spending and 40,000 new U.S. jobs.