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Business travel in the U.S. - statistics & facts

The COVID-19 outbreak caused enormous disruptions to the normal operations of companies and the job market worldwide. The crisis also meant a nearly complete halt in the business travel industry, especially in the international segment. In the United States, the number of business tourist arrivals from overseas went down by 78.8 percent in 2020 and continued to decline in 2021, reaching a drop of 87.4 percent versus 2019.

Despite this development, the United States reported the highest expenditure by domestic and inbound business tourists among the world’s strongest economies in 2021, outperforming China and the United Kingdom by 209 percent and 636 percent, respectively. Excluding Mexico and Canada, U.K. residents – who up until November 8th, 2021 could not enter the U.S. due to the ban on travelers from Europe amid COVID-19 – also constituted the second most popular country of origin for international business tourism in the United States that year.

How much does business travel contribute to the U.S. tourism sector?

Business travel made up nearly one-third of the tourism spending in the United States in 2019 and regained momentum in 2021, after having dropped to less than 20 percent in the previous year. Though the entire tourism sector was hit by the pandemic, these shares show the importance of business travel in this economic activity which contributes more than one trillion U.S. dollars to the U.S. economy. To the employment market, the contribution of business travel in the North American country was at around 2.7 million jobs in 2019, a figure that dropped to and remained below 800 thousand in 2020 and 2021.

Most expensive U.S. business travel destinations

Overall, business travel is not a cheap activity. With mostly short-notice bookings, well-situated and comfortable accommodation requirements, and high-quality eating options, business travel costs can be high. Excluding inbound and outbound transportation, New York ranked as the most expensive U.S. city for business travelers at the end of 2021, with an average daily expense of 541 U.S. dollars – most of which was destined for hotel accommodation. Considering only food expenses, San Francisco topped the ranking of most expensive cities for business travelers in the United States. On average, a visitor for work or professional purposes in that Californian city could spend 136 U.S. dollars on food per day at that time.

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