The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) has revealed its latest economic modeling projecting that U.S. travel & tourism could rebound strongly this year, reaching $2 trillion in U.S. GDP contribution and exceeding pre-pandemic levels by 6.2%.
News of the strong recovery follows steady gains in the sector during 2021 and signals the welcome comeback of one of the world’s most important economic drivers after almost two years of upheaval.
“Our latest forecast shows the recovery significantly picking up this year as infection rates subside and travelers continue benefiting from the protection offered by the vaccine and boosters,” said Julia Simpson, president/CEO, WTTC. “As travel restrictions ease and consumer confidence returns, we expect a welcome release of pent-up travel & tourism demand. That, together with what we hope will be a strong consumer-led economic recovery, creates a bullish outlook for the sector.”
Strong recovery outlook anticipated
Projections by WTTC and Oxford Economics show that if the vaccine and booster rollout will continue at pace, and restrictions to international travel continue to be eased around the world throughout the year, the sector’s contribution of nearly $2 trillion to the U.S. economy could outperform 2019 levels ($1.87 trillion) by more than 6%. Other findings:
- U.S. domestic travel & tourism spending is forecast to reach more than $1.1 trillion for the year, surpassing pre-pandemic levels by 11.3%
- International traveler spending in the U.S. could see growth of $113 billion during the year, reaching nearly $155 billion, slightly below (14%) 2019 levels
- Employment in the sector could also surpass pre-pandemic levels, reaching nearly 16.8 million jobs, above pre-pandemic levels by 200,000 jobs
“The good news is our outlook delivers a clear message: If the right conditions exist, the travel & tourism sector can rebound to deliver economic and employment benefits we have not seen since before the pandemic,” said Simpson. “We encourage global leaders to consider the economic and employment benefits of boosting consumer confidence by allowing fully vaccinated travelers to move freely.”
Related study also projects strong recovery in 2022
New research by ForwardKeys, a travel data and analytics company and WTTC’s knowledge partner, has revealed inbound bookings to the U.S. over the Easter period have increased by 212% compared to the same period last year. Similarly, the latest data shows international arrivals to U.S. destinations during the busy Easter period will see a surge of 130%, compared to 2021 levels.
Robust U.S. travel bookings will continue through the summer, with a 58% increase in U.S. travel bookings this year. Summer inbound international bookings will be similarly strong, increasing 87% over pre-pandemic levels.
In 2019 travel & tourism generated 10.4% of global GDP and more than 330 million jobs. To reach close to pre-pandemic levels this year, WTTC urges governments around the world to continue focusing on the vaccine and booster rollout—and allowing fully vaccinated travelers to move freely without the need for testing.
The global tourism body also urges governments to replace the patchwork of restrictions for international travel with digital solutions that allow travelers to prove their status in a fast, simple and secure way.