Travel, Tourism & Hospitality Spotlight

The Travel, Tourism and Hospitality Industry in the United States


The U.S. travel and tourism industry generated over $1.6 trillion in economic output in 2017, supporting 7.8 million U.S. jobs. Travel and tourism exports accounted for 11 percent of all U.S. exports and nearly a third (32 percent) of all U.S. services exports. That same year, U.S. travel and tourism output represented 2.8 percent of gross domestic product. Expenditures by international visitors in the United States passed $251 billion in 2017, yielding a $77 billion trade surplus for the year. According to Department of Commerce projections, the United States will welcome 95.5 million international visitors annually by 2023 (nearly twice the amount in 2000). The United States leads the world in international travel and tourism exports and ranks third in terms of total visitation.

Industry Subsectors

Of the 25+ subsectors that make up the travel and tourism industry, three sectors--accommodations, air travel and food services--account for more than half of total output.

Accommodations: This subsector is the largest of the three (in terms of total output) and accounts for almost a fifth of total travel and tourism-related spending. In 2017 travelers spent more than $300 billion on traveler accommodations. This sector supports nearly 2.1 million U.S. jobs. 

Air Travel: This subsector is the second-largest and accounts for nearly 17 percent of total travel and tourism-related spending. In 2017, travelers spent more than $270 billion on passenger air transportation services. Air transportation services support nearly 900,000 U.S. jobs. 

Food Services: This subsector is the third largest and accounts for nearly 16 percent of travel and tourism-related spending. Travelers spent $254 billion on food services in 2017, supporting almost 2.1 million U.S. jobs.

Federal Programs & Legislation

National Travel and Tourism Office (NTTO): The NTTO at the U.S. Department of Commerce serves as the central point of contact for travel and tourism issues in the federal government and is the federal government’s liaison to Brand USA.  Additionally, the NTTO generates the primary source of economic data and market intelligence on international visitation to the United States.  The NTTO also provides policy recommendations and coordination across the interagency Tourism Policy Council and with the private sector to support U.S. travel and tourism exports..
Travel Promotion Act of 2009 (TPA): This Act established the Corporation for Travel Promotion (CTP), a public-private partnership in travel and tourism doing business as “Brand USA.” The alliance between the U.S. government and the U.S. travel and tourism industry enhances the distribution of information on U.S. entry policies and promotes leisure, business, and scholarly travel to and within the United States. Currently, under the Travel Promotion Act, Brand USA can access up to $100 million in federal matching funds to execute its mission based on a one-to-one ratio of public to private funds. Brand USA is active in the top international travel markets for the United States. 

Travel Promotion, Enhancement, and Modernization Act of 2014 (HR 4450): This Act reauthorized the Travel Promotion Act of 2009 through September 30, 2020, and amended other requirements contained within the Act, most of which deal with administrative changes to process and procedures between the Department of Commerce and the Corporation for Travel Promotion (Brand USA). The Travel Promotion Fund cap remains set at $100 million in federal matching funds, though the ratio was shifted to require a minimum of 30 percent match in cash contributions and the balance in in-kind contributions by the private sector. Brand USA is actively working in more than 30 markets around the globe with fully activated marketing and promotion campaigns aimed at increasing international travel to the United States.

Prepared in collaboration with the International Trade Administration's Industry & Analysis Unit (I&A)

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Industry & Analysis (I&A) staff of industry, trade and economic analysts devise and implement international trade and investment strategies to strengthen the global competitiveness of U.S. industries. By combining in-depth analysis with the International Trade Administration’s industry relationships, I&A devises initiatives to unlock export and investment opportunities for U.S. businesses, represent the interests of U.S. industry in trade negotiations, and publishes research on global opportunities for U.S. companies.