Travel industry estimates final tally of 2020 losses at $1.1 trillion
COVID-19 losses in the travel industry top more than $1 trillion for 2020. Image via Tampa Airport.

65% of American jobs lost to the pandemic were in travel and hospitality.

The coronavirus crisis gave a $1.1 trillion wallop to the travel and hospitality industry in 2020.

According to a new report from the U.S. Travel Association, the massive economic impact includes $500 billion in direct revenue losses, with indirect losses accounting for the rest after the travel and hospitality industries collapsed in March 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down almost everything and people stopped traveling.

The slow, staggering recovery is long from complete.

In its latest effort to raise the alarm for the industry it represents, U.S. Travel on Wednesday released its latest economic estimates and the warning that there is a long way to go. The association represents travel businesses and destination marketing organizations like VISIT FLORIDA and Visit Orlando.

“While the gradual progress of vaccinations has provided hope that a turnaround may be on the horizon, it is still unclear when travel demand will be able to fully rebound on its own,” U.S. Travel Association President Roger Dow stated in a news release. “With the travel industry suffering such a disproportionate share of losses, policymakers need to understand that a nationwide economic recovery effectively hinges on a travel recovery.”

Industry leaders from across the country are pressing that message with federal officials Wednesday as they meet virtually with members of Congress for Destination Capitol Hill, the U.S. Travel Association’s annual legislative fly-in.

U.S. Travel reported that travel-supported jobs fell by 5.6 million in 2020, down to 11.1 million from 16.7 million before the pandemic. That represents 65% of all American jobs lost to the economic fallout of the pandemic.

Other numbers released from U.S. Travel’s research:

— Domestic travel fell 36% in 2020 compared with 2019. International travel fell 76%.

— Leisure travel dropped 30%. Business travel dropped 70%.

— Overall, travel-related taxes collected dropped $57 billion nationwide. That included $29 billion lost to the federal government, $16 billion lost to state governments, and $12 billion to local governments.

— About one-third of all travel-related jobs vanished. That included 3 million direct travel jobs and 2.6 million indirect travel jobs.

Scott Powers

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at [email protected].


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