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The Expert in Baby Boomer Travel

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Bison roam Yellowstone National Park. Photo by Dennis Cox/WorldViews

Bison roam Yellowstone National Park. Photo by Dennis Cox/WorldViews

National Travel & Tourism Week, which runs this year from May 7-13, is a time to celebrate the impact that travel and tourism have on the U.S. economy.

And it’s huge. According to the U.S. Travel Association:

  • In 2016, domestic and international travelers spent a combined $683 billion on leisure travel in the U.S.  When you add in business travelers, the total is almost $1 trillion — some $31,500 spent  per second.
  • That same trillion-dollar spending generated $2.3 trillion in total economic output in the U.S., factoring in an additional $1.3 trillion spurred in other industries, such as retail.
  • The travel industry supports 15.3 million American  jobs — 8.6 million directly in the travel industry and 6.7 million in other industries.
  • One of every nine jobs in the U.S. is dependent on the travel industry, which ranks seventh among private sector employers.
  • Travel ranks in the top 10 industries in 49 states and the District of Columbia
  • The U.S. had 76 million international arrivals in 2016, who spent $246 billion — $4,360 on average for stays of 18 nights — supporting 1.2 million U.S. jobs.
  • The top five leisure activities for international visitors to the U.S. are , in order, shopping, sightseeing, dining, national parks/monuments,  and amusement/theme parks.

Economic Benefits Under Threat

These statistics are particularly significant because international arrivals to the U.S. have been plummeting since the current administration announced its various versions of travel bans that would affect a number of Muslim-majority countries.

Utah's Escalante National Monument is a national treasure. Photo by Mitch Stevens

Utah’s Escalante National Monument is a national treasure. Photo by Mitch Stevens

While the bans are currently tied up in the courts, the effect has been to create uncertainty among many potential visitors from around the globe, who don’t know whether or not they’ll be hassled at airports on arrival or denied entry altogether. The U.S. now appears more unwelcoming than previously, so why take a chance on coming to America?

Lately there’s also been talk in Washington of even making citizens of close U.S. allies obtain visas before visiting the U.S. This would almost certainly result in millions of fewer overseas visitors. At best, they’ll postpone their trips here until such restrictions are eased, but in many cases, they’ll take their vacations elsewhere — permanently.

Finally, the current administration is in the process of reviewing the status of a number of protected national monuments, labeling some of the country’s most precious natural areas the subject of a “federal land grab.”

Note again the number four preferred activity of international leisure travelers to the U.S.: visiting national parks and monuments. (Domestic travelers rank them highly as well.)

During National Travel and Tourism Week, let’s stop and ponder what it would mean to the economy, our livelihoods, and our overall quality of life if the American travel industry takes a major hit due to shortsighted policies in Washington.

The travel industry may not get the headlines, but there’s much more to the U.S. economic engine than manufacturing, fossil fuels, and real estate.





5 Responses to Happy National Travel & Tourism Week

  • Thanks for this very timely post! Too little has been said about this impact of even the halted bans. I know of an international professional meeting that is being shifted to Vancouver BC to avoid not merely travel difficulties for attendees but also boycotts by some who said they would not come to the US if others were systematically excluded.

  • That’s exactly right, MB — a lot of Europeans, for instance, are boycotting the U.S. now even though they aren’t the targets of the bans. Thanks for this. added info.

  • Great post Clark. Important numbers to put the contributions of the travel industry in perspective and cause everyone to be appreciate the negative consequences (intended or not) of these travel and public space policies.

    • Thanks, Gavin. I think this is a problem that’s been largely overlooked. The travel industry is huge and the impact of these policies not well understood. I’m hoping more people in the travel trade will start speaking up.

  • Hey, Clark Norton!
    Thanks a lot for sharing this detailed article with us. I want to share my experience.
    National Travel and Tourism Week, now in its 34th year. I saw a post on social media about it. The first full week of May is annually established as National Travel & Tourism Week in 1983 by a congressional resolution.

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According to government and private surveys:

  • Leading-edge baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1955) and seniors account for four out of every five dollars spent on luxury travel today.
  • Roughly half the consumer spending money in the U.S.--more than $2 trillion--is in the hands of leading-edge baby boomers and seniors.
  • Baby boomers (born 1946-1964) travel more than any other age group.
  • When asked what they would most like to spend their money on, baby boomers answered “travel” more than any other category, including improving their health or finances.

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