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Tourism declines at 5.9 percent

July 4, 2009

Bureau of Economic Analysis: Real spending on travel and tourism declined at an annual rate of 5.9 percent in 2009:1 after decreasing 6.9 percent (revised) in 2008:4.  By comparison, real gross domestic product (GDP) decreased 5.7 percent (preliminary) in 2009:1 after a decrease of 6.3 percent in 2008:4.

Real spending declined despite a drop in travel and tourism prices of 10.9 percent in 2009:1 following a 16.5 percent (revised) decrease in 2008:4.  Leading the decline was passenger air transportation (28.7 percent) and traveler accommodations (15.1 percent).

Passenger air transportation continued to contract—decreasing 5.8 percent in 2009:1 after decreasing 8.7 percent (revised) in 2008:4.  Real spending on domestic flights declined for the sixth consecutive quarter; however, real spending on international flights rose 10.5 percent after an increase of 10.1 percent in the previous quarter.

Spending on accommodations posted a larger decrease—18.6 percent in 2009:1 after a 10.4 percent (revised) decrease in 2008:4.  The hotel industry continued to experience declining demand that was only partially offset by reduced room rates, leading to the decline in real spending.

Retail shopping by travelers showed a smaller decrease of 1.3 percent in 2009:1 compared to a decrease of 11.6 percent in 2008:4.

Transportation prices continued to decline in 2009:1—decreasing 23.0 percent after decreasing 36.1 percent (revised) in 2008:4.  Auto travelers and tourists continued to pay significantly less for gasoline at the pump and airfare continued to become more affordable.

Employment supported directly by tourist spending fell 6.6 percent in 2009:1 after a decrease of 3.9 percent in 2008:4 and 2.6 percent (revised) in 2008:3 (see box).  All the industries in travel and tourism reduced employment in 2009:1.  By comparison, overall U.S. employment decreased 5.9 percent in 2009:1 and decreased 3.7 percent (revised) in 2008:4.

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