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Consumer expenditures on travel declined sharply from 2019 to 2020

March 18, 2022

The average household spent about $2,100 on travel in 2019. With the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, this average dropped to $926 for the year, a decrease of 56 percent. Within travel, the sharpest decline—in both dollars and percent terms—was in transportation. This includes airline fares (down 69 percent), intercity train fares (down 74 percent), and intercity bus fares (down 85 percent). It also includes local transportation, such as taxi fares and limousine services on trips, for which spending was down 66 percent. Spending for other transportation-related items on out-of-town trips (gasoline, motor oil, vehicle rental, tolls, parking, and ship fares), was down 54 percent from 2019 to 2020. The largest expenditure in this category in either year, gasoline on out-of-town trips, was down more than 43 percent in 2020.

Consumer expenditures on travel, 2019 and 2020
Travel component 2019 2020

All travel

$2,100 $926

Transportation

849 300

Lodging

619 318

Food

423 208

Entertainment

139 64

Alcohol

70 35

Food, entertainment, and alcohol expenditures on trips also declined by at least 50 percent from 2019 to 2020. In contrast, lodging expenditures, the second largest component of travel expenditures in 2019 (after transportation) fell the least—about 49 percent. As a result, lodging edged out transportation as the largest travel expenditure in 2020.

While food, entertainment, and alcohol each accounted for roughly the same shares of travel spending in 2020 as they did in 2019, the shares for the two largest components, transportation and lodging, moved closer together. That is, in 2019, transportation accounted for about 4 in 10 travel dollars spent, with lodging accounting for about 3 in 10 dollars spent. In 2020, each accounted for about 1 in 3 travel dollars spent.

Percent distribution of consumer expenditures on travel, 2019 and 2020
Travel component 2019 2020

All travel

100.0% 100.0%

Transportation

40.4 32.4

Lodging

29.5 34.3

Food

20.1 22.5

Entertainment

6.6 6.9

Alcohol

3.3 3.8

These data are from the Consumer Expenditure Surveys. They are averages for all consumer units (similar to households), regardless of whether they traveled in these years. More detailed estimates are available in tables showing means, variances, and percent reporting for 2019 and 2020. Most travel expenditures in these tables include the word “trips.” (For example, “food prepared by consumer unit on out-of-town trips” and “alcoholic beverages purchased on trips.”) Four do not, however: “airline fares,” “intercity bus fares,” “intercity train fares,” and “ship fares.” Ship fares include fares for cruise ships, long-distance ferries, and river cruises. Local ferries taken on trips are included in local transportation on out-of-town trips.

SUGGESTED CITATION

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, The Economics Daily, Consumer expenditures on travel declined sharply from 2019 to 2020 at https://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2022/consumer-expenditures-on-travel-declined-sharply-from-2019-to-2020.htm (visited December 05, 2022).

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