American are (sort of) traveling again – Kiplinger’s Personal Finance

The travel industry is on the road to recovery after it was devastated by pandemic-related restrictions and lockdowns. But the rebound has been uneven, as some travel sectors still struggle while others are gliding back to normality.

Prior to the pandemic, the U.S. travel industry enjoyed 10 consecutive years of growth. But all that came crashing down when the pandemic hit in 2020. Direct spending on travel slumped to only 62 percent compared with the previous year, says the U.S. Travel Association, an industry trade group.

This year, look for overall travel spending in the U.S. to increase to about 90% of 2019’s level, when adjusted for inflation. Things should return close to normal next year, though spending isn’t expected to surpass prepandemic levels, when adjusted for inflation, until 2024.

Beach Vacations Are Back. Business Travel Isn’t.

Domestic leisure travel is driving the industry’s rebound. It’s already surpassed prepandemic levels, even when adjusted for inflation – though it is projected to remain $46 billion below where it should have been in 2022 if not for COVID-19, says the U.S. Travel Association.

International inbound travel to the U.S. also is making a big comeback, aided by the recent dropping of pre-departure COVID testing. It is projected to grow rapidly through the rest of 2022, and then at a slower pace until 2026. A full recovery to prepandemic levels isn’t expected until 2025.

But domestic business travel is facing a tougher climb. While seeing promising growth this year – to about 80% of prepandemic levels – it’s likely to stagnate for several years. When adjusted for inflation, domestic business travel isn’t expected to fully recover to prepandemic levels until at least 2027, says the U.S Travel Association. Corporate cost cutting and continued remote work by customers are leading reasons for many would-be business travelers to stay home.

Still, company executives are eager to get their folks back on the road. Almost 90% of companies now allow non-essential domestic business travel, according to a U.S. Travel Association survey. In-person meetings (as opposed to conventions/trade shows) are the top business travel expense that companies are planning on for the rest of the year. Another survey from April from a business event planning outfit showed that almost seven in 10 companies surveyed were planning in-person events for the second and third quarters of this year.

But convention/conference/trade show attendance is bouncing back. Spending on this sector (as a share of overall business travel) is expected to be up four percentage points from 2019, the U.S. Travel Association says. And much of that spending is being done in Las Vegas, which has enjoyed astronomical growth in business travel this year. From January through …….


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