Study: 'Lost Decade' in Travel Promotion Costs U.S. $500 Billion

Since 2000, the decline in overseas travel to the United States—and the lack of a nationally coordinated travel promotion campaign to reverse the trend—has cost America 440,000 jobs and more than $500 billion in total travel-related spending, finds a new report by the U.S. Travel Association.

Released this week and produced in association with Oxford Economics, the report describes a "lost decade" of missed opportunities, according to U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow.

"While international travel has been an oasis of opportunity, we're still lost in the desert," he said in a statement. "We can't afford another lost decade when we're looking for ways to kick-start the economy and create jobs."

According to the report, titled "The Lost Decade: The High Costs of America's Failure to Compete for International Travel," the United States welcomed 2.4 million fewer overseas visitors in 2009 than in 2000, which contrasts with the decade-long growth in international travel worldwide. The country's failure to "simply keep pace with" that growth, the report concluded, has cost its economy:

• 68.3 million lost visitors, each of whom spends on average over $4,000
• $509 billion in lost spending, including $295 billion in downstream spending at restaurants, retailers, etc.
• 441,000 lost jobs nationwide
• $32 billion in lost tax revenue at the federal, state and local levels
• $270 billion in lost trade surplus

To help the United States recover its losses and stimulate international travel to America in the decade ahead, Dow has urged the U.S. Senate to approve final passage of the Travel Promotion Act, the first-ever nationally coordinated marketing and communications program aimed at attracting international travelers to the United States. According to Oxford Economics, spending $200 million on overseas travel promotion would attract 1.6 million new visitors each year, add $4 billion to the U.S. economy annually, produce $320 million per year in new federal tax revenues and create approximately 40,000 new U.S. jobs.