According to World Travel & Tourism Council's (WTTC) "Travel & Tourism Economic Impact 2023 Global Trends Report," the GDP contribution of the U.S. travel and tourism sector grew by 16.9 percent in 2022, reaching $2 trillion. Additionally, the sector also created 2.7 million more jobs compared to 2021. Forecasting for this year, WTTC forecasts the sector’s GDP contribution will reach $2.2 trillion and that job numbers will total 17.4 million.

This impressive growth was fueled by a strong resurgence in demand from international visitors, whose spending increased by more than 150 percent year-on-year, to reach $115.7 billion in 2022. The report also shows that domestic visitor spend has nearly regained its pre-pandemic levels with figures reaching $1.18 trillion in 2022, close to the $1.2 trillion spent by domestic visitors in 2019. 

Measured by economic contribution, and spending by international and domestic visitors, the U.S. led the world in both 2019 and 2022.

Outbound Travel Destinations

Data from ForwardKeys revealed a 13 percent increase in forward-looking U.S. outbound travel, with prime growth destinations Greece, the Dominican Republic, Italy, Jamaica and Mexico all seeing increases ranging from 30 percent to 63 percent. Families are leading the travel recovery, with family-sized groups witnessing a 21 percent growth over 2019.

U.S. travelers have also remained steadfast in their continued preferences for southern European destinations. Searches for vacations to southern Europe only saw a minimal 0.3 percent decrease according to ForwardKeys, highlighting Americans’ sustained interest in the region, despite high summer temperatures.

The top international destinations for U.S. visitors, however, are Mexico, Canada and the U.K., together making up 52 percent of all outbound departures in the U.S. in 2022.

Airports Seeing an Increase in Passengers

The resurgence in travel is also reflected in U.S. airport statistics. Mabrian Technologies revealed that the U.S. continues to host some of the world’s busiest airports. Denver International has witnessed the highest inbound passenger growth of any U.S. airport with almost 2.2 million more passengers between 2019 and 2023. Orlando International also experienced a rise in inbound traffic, accommodating 1.8 million more travelers in 2022 compared to 2019. The recently rebranded Harry Reid International Airport in Las Vegas ranks third, with 1.7 million more travelers passing through its gates in 2023 as opposed to 2019.

Other major U.S. airports, such as Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International, Dallas Fort Worth International and O’Hare International, are also all forecast to be among the top 10 busiest airports in the U.S. in 2023 in terms of total inbound passenger numbers.

Together, these figures underscore that airports across the U.S. welcomed a combined 9.6 million more passengers last year in comparison to the period just before the pandemic hit.

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