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copy the linklink copied!Tourism in the economy

Travel and tourism in the United States is a major contributor to the national economy, accounting for 2.9% of GVA. In 2018, inbound travel and tourism accounted for 10% of exports. According to the Travel and Tourism Satellite Account, the industry produced USD 1.6 trillion in total economic output in 2018 (USD 941 billion of direct tourism output and USD 682 billion of indirect tourism output by ancillary industries). The travel and tourism industry is one of the United States’ largest employers, directly supporting 5.9 million jobs in 2018, of which 1.2 million were supported by travel and tourism-related exports. Travel exports represented 26.0% of total service exports in 2018.

The United States welcomed a record 79.7 million international visitors in 2018. The largest source markets were Canada (26.9% of international tourists) and Mexico (23.1%), followed by the United Kingdom (5.8%), Japan (4.4%) and China (3.8%). International visitors collectively spent USD 256 billion on travel to, and tourism-related activities within, the United States in 2018. In order of spending, the top international markets for U.S. tourism are China, Canada, Mexico, Japan and the United Kingdom.

Domestic tourists took 2.3 billion trips in 2018, up 1.9% over 2017, with 1.7 billion overnight tourists and 632.1 million day visitors

copy the linklink copied!Tourism governance and funding

Travel and tourism in the United States is highly decentralised. In addition to the federal government, individual states and destinations manage travel and tourism for their jurisdictions, including marketing. These activities are undertaken by the federal government, state governments and destination marketing organisations.

The National Travel and Tourism Office (NTTO), within the International Trade Administration (ITA) of the United States Department of Commerce, serves as the central point of contact within the federal government. The NTTO is the source of official tourism statistics to inform public policy and private sector business decisions, and works to enhance the competitive position of the United States with respect to travel and tourism. The NTTO works closely with ITA’s U.S. Commercial Service at U.S. embassies and consulates in more than 70 overseas markets to promote travel and tourism exports. The Corporation for Travel Promotion (CTP), formed in 2010 and operating as Brand USA, is a non-profit corporation established by federal statute that promotes travel to the United States and works with the government to provide useful information for international visitors. The NTTO is the official United States government liaison to Brand USA.

The federal government does not regulate travel and tourism as a distinct industry, although related sectors, such as transport, are regulated at the federal level. The Bureau of Consumer Protection at the Federal Trade Commission enforces federal laws against unfair, deceptive or fraudulent business practices, including in the travel and tourism industry. The Department of Commerce ensures that the views of the private sector are shared with other federal agencies and are considered in the development of federal policy with respect to travel and tourism issues. States and local governments regulate the conduct of travel and tourism business within their jurisdictions.

Key travel and tourism activities at the Department of Commerce include:

  • The U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board (TTAB) – consisting of up to 32 private sector representatives from companies and organisations in the travel and tourism industry, who are appointed by and provide policy advice to the Secretary of Commerce.

  • The Tourism Policy Council (TPC) – an inter-agency council established by law for the purpose of ensuring that the nation’s tourism interests are fully considered in federal decision-making. Its major function is to co-ordinate national policies and programmes of federal agencies that have a significant effect on international travel and tourism, recreation, and national heritage resources.

NTTO data also informs air services liberalisation deliberations, including the negotiation of Open Skies agreements. The NTTO sells research reports and data to generate additional operating revenues, while inter-agency agreements also generate funds.

The NTTO’s operational budget for 2018 was approximately USD 5.1 million. In addition to its operational budget, the NTTO approves up to USD 100 million from the Travel Promotion Fund for use by Brand USA. Brand USA is supported by a portion of the fees charged for the Electronic System for Travel Authorisation paid by international travellers participating in the U.S. Visa Waiver Program.

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United States: Organisational chart of tourism bodies
United States: Organisational chart of tourism bodies

Source: OECD, adapted from the United States Department of Commerce, 2020.

copy the linklink copied!Tourism policies and programmes

The United States is focused on better managing travel and tourism growth generated by increasing customer demand. The 2012 National Travel and Tourism Strategy set the goal to increase American jobs by attracting 100 million international visitors annually, estimated to spend USD 250 billion, by the end of 2021. As the spending goal was met in 2017, the United States looked to set a new target for visitation and spending. The TTAB recommended a target of USD 445 billion in spending and 116 million international visitors annually, by the end of 2028. To date, there has been general agreement of this new target across the TPC agencies. To meet this goal, and to ensure that the United States is creating conditions for growth, the United States is focused on reviewing and revising the National Strategy to include current initiatives and to ensure the tactics are still relevant.

To meet growing demand, the United States is evolving the entry and exit processes using biometrics (see box). In addition to U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s trusted traveller programmes, the United States is piloting a biometric entry and exit system. The system aims to provide a more seamless travel experience and enhance security for inbound and outbound travel, improve business processes and enable stronger collaboration between government and the private sector. The biometrics entry/exit system enhances and facilitates data-sharing while utilising existing airport and airline infrastructure; leverages existing stakeholder systems and processes; and uses existing traveller data and IT infrastructure.

With record-low unemployment in the United States, and the emergence of new technology, a priority for the United States is ensuring that all sectors, including travel and tourism, have the workforce they need now and in the future. To address employment issues, in 2018, the U.S. government created the National Council for the American Worker to develop and implement a strategy to prepare workers for today’s jobs and for the jobs of the future. The Administration also created an outside board—the American Workforce Policy Advisory Board to guide the National Council by bringing the latest thinking and experience from business, education, states and cities, organised labour, and other institutions that have a role in educating and training American workers.

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U.S. Biometric Entry/Exit System

To meet growing customer demand while creating a seamless and more secure travel experience, the United States is evolving entry and exit processes using biometrics. The system enhances and facilitates data-sharing while utilising existing airport and airline infrastructure, leveraging existing stakeholder systems and processes, and using existing traveller data and IT infrastructure. The system aims to provide a more seamless travel experience, enhance security for inbound and outbound travel, improve business processes, and enable stronger collaboration between government and the private sector, including airlines, airports and other stakeholders. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is leading the transformation of the travel experience in partnership with industry stakeholders. Airline and technology partners are playing a critical role.

Just before entry or exit, each international traveller’s photo is taken, either by CBP owned cameras or equipment provided by the airlines, airport authority or cruise line. CBP’s biometric matching service, the Traveller Verification Service, compares the new photo with U.S. Department of Homeland Security data, which includes images from photographs taken by CBP during the entry inspection, photographs from U.S. passports, U.S. visas and other travel documents, as well as photographs from previous Department of Homeland Security encounters.

The Traveller Verification Service is hosted in a secure cloud-based environment and stores only the traveller’s photo. For Citizens of the United States as well as all in-scope travellers, a photo is taken and submitted to the Traveller Verification Process, solely for the purpose of validating the identity of the traveller and ensuring that the passport being presented belongs to the bearer of the document. Only CBP has access to this biometric data. Industry partners only receive results of the “match/no match” determination and not any associated biographic information.

copy the linklink copied!Statistical Profile

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United States: Domestic, inbound and outbound tourism

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

TOURISM FLOWS, THOUSAND

Domestic tourism

Total domestic trips

2 109 300

2 178 700

2 206 600

2 247 900

2 291 100

Overnight visitors (tourists)

1 455 417

1 525 090

1 566 686

1 618 488

1 658 950

Same-day visitors (excursionists)

653 883

653 610

639 914

629 412

632 150

Nights in all types of accommodation

..

..

..

..

..

Hotels and similar establishments

875 112

899 505

933 749

973 743

998 087

Other collective establishments

..

..

..

..

..

Private accommodation

..

..

..

..

..

Inbound tourism

Total international arrivals

177 953

176 864

175 262

174 292

169 325

Overnight visitors (tourists)

75 022

77 774

76 407

77 187

79 746

Same-day visitors (excursionists)

102 932

99 091

98 854

97 105

89 579

Top markets

Canada

23 014

20 699

19 287

20 493

21 475

Mexico

17 070

18 374

18 991

17 788

18 387

United Kingdom

4 149

4 915

4 587

4 483

4 659

Japan

3 620

3 793

3 604

3 596

3 493

China

2 190

2 629

3 050

3 174

2 992

Nights in all types of accommodation

369 323

398 710

391 311

404 677

405 682

Hotels and similar establishments

188 939

204 281

210 147

208 138

212 207

Other collective establishments

16 327

21 707

15 177

17 050

18 546

Private accommodation

164 057

172 721

165 987

179 489

174 930

Outbound tourism

Total international departures

121 709

130 907

141 526

148 056

157 873

Overnight visitors (tourists)

68 185

74 191

80 223

87 657

92 564

Same-day visitors (excursionists)

53 523

56 716

61 303

60 398

65 308

Top destinations

Mexico

25 882

28 733

31 194

35 050

36 449

Canada

11 523

12 669

13 892

14 280

14 341

United Kingdom

2 832

2 885

3 197

3 756

3 927

France

2 124

2 361

2 178

2 645

3 008

Italy

1 908

2 033

2 214

2 338

2 924

TOURISM RECEIPTS AND EXPENDITURE, MILLION USD

Inbound tourism

Total international receipts

235 989

249 183

245 991

251 544

256 145

International travel receipts

191 918

206 936

206 650

210 655

214 680

International passenger transport receipts

44 071

42 247

39 341

40 889

41 465

Outbound tourism

Total international expenditure

140 558

150 042

160 959

173 760

186 506

International travel expenditure

105 668

114 548

123 549

134 868

144 463

International passenger transport expenditure

34 890

35 494

37 410

38 892

42 043

.. Not available

Source: OECD Tourism Statistics (Database).

 StatLink http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/888934078148

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United States: Enterprises and employment in tourism

Number of establishments

Number of persons employed

2018

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

Total

..

5 572 258

5 688 460

5 789 287

5 834 793

5 924 757

Tourism industries

903 717

4 806 198

4 891 641

4 989 468

5 041 636

5 118 502

Accommodation services for visitors

61 505

1 430 315

1 460 092

1 480 957

1 512 714

1 537 916

Hotels and similar establishments

56 697

..

..

..

..

..

Food and beverage serving industry

642 027

14 668

13 927

13 390

13 151

12 854

Passenger transport

..

2 318 355

2 366 630

2 402 796

2 405 071

2 430 743

Air passenger transport

4 074

2 149 553

2 192 196

2 223 307

2 221 510

2 247 142

Railways passenger transport

..

9 367

9 996

9 691

9 426

9 025

Road passenger transport

16 427

120 907

126 968

131 105

134 645

132 470

Water passenger transport

562

38 528

37 470

38 692

39 490

42 106

Passenger transport supporting services

..

347 767

360 690

370 958

371 205

371 915

Transport equipment rental

9 753

163 859

170 613

176 128

177 834

180 172

Travel agencies and other reservation services industry

22 091

56 197

56 149

58 098

56 360

58 740

Cultural industry

63 494

39 162

39 633

41 529

42 223

45 657

Sports and recreation industry

83 784

435 875

423 908

445 612

463 077

480 505

Retail trade of country-specific tourism characteristic goods

..

..

..

..

..

..

Other country-specific tourism industries

..

..

..

..

..

..

Other industries

..

766 060

796 819

799 818

793 157

806 254

.. Not available

Source: OECD Tourism Statistics (Database).

 StatLink http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/888934078167

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United States: Internal tourism consumption
Million USD

2018

Domestic tourism expenditure

Inbound tourism expenditure

Internal tourism consumption

Total

1 089 672

198 264

39 377 330

Consumption products

956 196

198 264

39 243 853

Tourism characteristic products

849 730

148 873

2 832 021

Accommodation services for visitors

170 707

45 101

215 808

Food and beverage serving services

108 993

32 166

1 010 048

Passenger transport services

250 078

46 414

356 226

Air passenger transport services

209 458

45 195

254 654

Railways passenger transport services

2 305

59

2 364

Road passenger transport services

19 163

560

78 456

Water passenger transport services

19 152

599

20 753

Passenger transport supporting services

141 325

1 289

728 315

Transport equipment rental services

34 965

201

48 705

Travel agencies and other reservation services industry

50 192

646

54 864

Cultural services

18 936

2 530

92 911

Sports and recreation services

74 533

20 526

325 145

Country-specific tourism characteristic goods

..

..

..

Country-specific tourism characteristic services

..

..

..

Other consumption products

106 466

49 391

36 411 832

Tourism connected products

106 466

49 391

4 706 569

Non-tourism related consumption products

0

0

31 705 263

Non-consumption products

..

..

..

.. Not available

Source: OECD Tourism Statistics (Database).

 StatLink http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/888934078186

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