Travel has the power to connect people with places and expose us to new cultures and ways of life. For well over a year, Americans made difficult decisions to forgo personal travel and business trips to protect ourselves, our families, friends, and communities from the COVID-19 pandemic. As we mark National Travel and Tourism Week (May 4-10, 2021), I am hopeful for the future as travelers who are fully vaccinated can begin to travel safely.
The U.S. travel and tourism industry has been disproportionately affected by the economic disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, with small businesses that rely on new and returning visitors hit particularly hard. In 2020 employment in the travel-dependent leisure and hospitality sector declined by 3.3 million, accounting for more than a third (37%) of the overall decline in non-farm employment last year.1 At the same time, international visitation to the United States declined 76%.2
In response to a deflated travel and tourism sector and its immense impact on our economy and people, the U.S. government and President Biden took swift and decisive action.
President Biden’s American Rescue Plan will provide significant aid to communities that have suffered economic injury related to these declines. Specifically, $750 million has been allotted to the Economic Development Administration (EDA) for these states and communities hit hardest in the travel, tourism, or outdoor recreation sectors. Accordingly, I met with the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board and heard its recommendations on initiatives to support leisure and business travel, including infrastructure and non-infrastructure projects that would be most impactful for these communities as they respond and recover from COVID-19.
In addition, the International Trade Administration’s National Travel and Tourism Office (NTTO) has developed several new tools for the industry’s use, principal among them the COVID-19 Travel Industry Monitor. The Monitor includes key indicators from the Small Business Pulse Survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, and snapshot data in six key areas: COVID-19, International Visitation, Trade in Travel, Key Economic Indicators, Travel Indicators, and Sentiment. More information on this useful tool can be found here.
We must reignite the travel and tourism industry, but we must do so safely and inclusively, working to provide equitable relief to Americans in every part of the country. National Travel and Tourism Week 2021 offers us a moment to reflect on how far we’ve come in the face of a global crisis and a chance to celebrate the power of travel to fill our souls and fuel our nation’s economic prosperity. Restoring Americans’ spirits and recovering our nation’s economy will not be possible without this important industry.
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