The coronavirus pandemic is decimating the American tourism industry

As COVID-19 cases in the United States continue to surge, it’s clear that it will be a while before Americans can flatten the curve. With no definite idea of when it will be safe to travel to the U.S. yet, the American tourism industry is officially in a depression, according to the U.S. Travel Association.

Quartz reports that foreign visitors’ spending declined by 77% in April 2020 compared to April 2019, and experts don’t feel confident May or June will see an improvement. The U.S. Travel Association predicts that international spending in 2020 will fall 75%—from $155 billion to $39 billion. 

The public perception of how the U.S. is handling the pandemic indicates that foreign travel won’t increase anytime soon. In June, the BBC reported that European Union ambassadors banned most American visitors from entering the E.U., which would dissuade Europeans from traveling to the U.S., too. 

On June 23, Brand USA released a COVID-19 international market update that said there’s a substantial worldwide dip in intent to visit the U.S. in 2020, with the sharpest decline coming from China. The report found that the U.S. will continue to lose market share because the overall dip in intent to travel to the U.S. is more substantial than to other countries. 

International spending isn’t the only factor that economists expect will take a hit. Not only do foreigners want to avoid the U.S., but Americans are also wary of going on vacation within the country. The U.S. Travel Association expects domestic traveling to fall 40%, from $972 billion to $583 billion. That will lead to a drop in total travel spending by 45% by the end of 2020. 

Because of the sharp decline in spending from foreigners and domestic travelers alike, the U.S. Travel Association says that while the U.S. economy is in a recession, the American tourism industry is actually in a depression. The travel industry unemployment is 51%, twice the unemployment of the worst year of the Great Depression and nine times worse than the year following Sept. 11. More than 8 million people in the tourism workforce have lost their job, representing 38% of all job losses through April. 

The tourism industry has seen minor improvements since April. A June 25 report shows the industry grew by 5% to $10.6 billion. 

“The travel economy measured 55% below last year’s levels for the week ending June 20th, registering a $13.2 billion loss when compared to the same week a year ago,” the report said. “Since the beginning of March, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in over $250 billion in losses for the U.S. travel economy.” 

Although the number of states with year-over-year losses of less than 50% grew to 22, the report found that the District of Columbia, Hawaii, and Massachusetts continue to suffer declines exceeding 70%. 

The tourism workforce will probably have to hang tight awhile longer. Brand USA doesn’t expect a return to international inbound travel until the spring of 2021. 

Sources: Quartz, Brand USA, U.S. Travel Association, BBC

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