Stat: Travel Among Most Potent U.S. Exports

The sky is the limit for what the travel industry can achieve for the broader economy, argues a new study from the U.S. Travel Association. Travel has created jobs 42 percent faster than the rest of the economy since the 2007-2009 recession, reaching an all-time employment high of nearly eight million jobs in July 2014.

"Travel's potency as a job creator, tax revenue generator, and positive contributor to domestic GDP are all well-documented and well-known," said U.S. Travel president and CEO Roger Dow.

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"We frequently have to remind people that travel is also a top performer for the U.S. trade balance, which is always a top economic priority for political leaders. When they grasp that, it's easier to talk to them about the policies travel needs to grow and perform even better—like improvements to the Customs entry process, expansion of the Visa Waiver Program, and urgent attention to our surface and air travel infrastructure," Dow said.

"The single greatest point to remember about travel is that it creates jobs that cannot be outsourced abroad. A concierge or tour guide or sales executive or general manager cannot possibly perform their job from a phone bank in Bangladesh. When overseas visitors come here with the $4,500 they spend per trip on average, the economic benefits stay right here," according to Dow.

According to the study:

  • Travel is the second-largest U.S. export by industry ($214.8 billion in 2013), trailing only transportation equipment ($240.4 billion) and well ahead of sectors like financial services ($84.1 billion) and agriculture ($66.2 billion)
  • Travel accounts for almost a third (31.2 percent) of U.S. service exports, and almost a tenth (9.4 percent) of exports of all goods and services
  • U.S. travel exports grew by 69 percent between 2006 and 2014—faster than the 55 percent increase in all other exports
  • Travel exports grew 72 percent faster than travel imports from 2003 to 2013, with the travel trade surplus now standing at $78 billion. By contrast, the trade deficit in all other U.S. goods and services deteriorated by $44 billion.

Travel is more labor-intensive than other industries. $1 million in travel exports supports 6.6 American jobs—far more than the number of jobs in agriculture (2.0 jobs) or manufacturing (1.8 jobs) supported by $1 million in exports.

The jobs travel creates stay in the U.S. Firms outsourcing business activities to companies abroad account for 22 percent of sales in the manufacturing sector and 25 percent in finance and insurance. By contrast, firms outsourcing jobs abroad in the largest component of the travel industry—leisure and hospitality—account for a mere 3.6 percent of industry sales.

"This study clearly illustrates the unique characteristics of the travel industry," said David Huether, U.S. Travel's senior vice president for research and economics. "It grows faster, exports more and creates jobs faster than virtually any other part of the economy. If just a few of U.S. Travel's policy priorities make it through Congress, the sky is the limit for what this industry can achieve for the broader economy."


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