Economic impacts of COVID-19 on travel and tourism, specifically in the Great Lakes States

U.S. Travel Association publishes details of the startling decline in U.S. travel and tourism.

When the COVID-19 pandemic started, nobody could have predicted exactly what impact it would have on travel and tourism. In its January 2021 analysis, the U.S. Travel Association reported a colossal 42% decline (approximately $500 billion) in total travel spending (domestic and international travel) in 2020 compared to 2019.

Specifically, domestic total travel spending declined by 36% from 993.5 billion dollars (2019) to 638.1 billion dollars (2020). States like Hawaii were impacted the hardest with domestic and international travelers spending declining by 60% resulting in a 51% decline in federal, state, and local taxes. Impacted the least, but still significantly, was Mississippi. The southern state total traveler spending declined by 26% resulting in a 20% decline in federal, state, and local taxes.

Michigan, like every other state, was impacted severely, too. Using U.S. Travel Association’s Economic Impact Map, the figure below summarizes the percentage of total traveler spending decline (domestic and international) and percentage of decline in total taxes as a result of the reduced spending for Midwestern states with access to at least one Great Lake.


% of total traveler spending decline (domestic and international)

% of decline in total taxes (federal, state, and local)



















 These statistics are just a snapshot of a few states. Every state was devastated over the year and most of us are acutely aware there’s still a long road to recovery. That being said, U.S. Travel forecasts from Fall 2020 predict total travel spending in the U.S. will increase to 23.2% in 2021 and increase further to 25.5% by 2022, before leveling off to pre COVID-19 levels by 2024.

A wide range of tourism research and data is available from the U.S. Travel Association. By visiting the research section on the website, visitors can explore Monthly Travel Data Reports, Travel Facts and Figures, Forecast Reports, and Travel’s Dramatic Losses in 2020.

In early 2020, Michigan State University Extension’s tourism team launched a five-part webinar series designed to provide space for participants to learn and share thoughts on the pandemic’s devastating impacts on tourism and business experienced as early as March 2020. Each webinar covers a wide range of topics related to tourism in 2020; all webinars are available for free.

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