Inflation-adjusted spending on travel and tourism increased at an annual rate of 3.4 percent in the first three months of this year, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) reports. It had increased at a rate of 4.4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011. The slightly slower pace in the first quarter mostly reflected less spending on air travel and on lodging.
Still, travel and tourism spending has grown faster than the U.S. economy in both of the last two quarters. Gross domestic product rose 1.9 percent in the first quarter and 3.0 percent in the fourth quarter.
Meanwhile, overall growth in prices for travel and tourism goods and services turned up, increasing at a pace of 6.0 percent in the first quarter. That followed a 1.7 percent annualized decline in the fourth quarter. The upturn reflected higher prices for fuel and lodging.
Total travel and tourism employment increased at a 2.7 percent annualized pace to 7.6 million jobs in the first quarter. That followed a 1.3 percent growth rate in the final three months of last year. By comparison, overall U.S. employment increased 2.1 percent in the first quarter, after rising 1.4 percent in the fourth quarter of last year.
Of the total 7.6 million travel and tourism jobs at the start of this year, 5.4 million jobs involved producing goods and services sold “directly” to visitors such as hotel workers, airline pilots and souvenir sellers. Another 2.2 million jobs involved people “indirectly” employed, like those who make toiletries for hotel guests and the plastic used to produce souvenir key chains.
Spending on air transportation slowed, increasing 1.8 percent in the first quarter, after registering a 3.2 percent growth rate in the fourth quarter. Spending on lodging also slowed, increasing at a 4.8 percent pace in the first quarter, following a 7.4 percent growth rate in the fourth quarter. Business spending on lodging increased while leisure spending was flat.
Prices for passenger air transportation accelerated, rising at an 11.9 percent rate in the first quarter after increasing at a 6.5 percent pace in the fourth quarter. Airlines continued to increase fares in the first quarter to cover rising fuel costs. Prices for lodging also turned up, increasing 6.3 percent in the first quarter after falling at an 8.3 percent pace in the fourth quarter. To learn more about travel and tourism spending read the full report.