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Travel and tourism industry advertising in the U.S. - statistics & facts

The travel and tourism industry is a cornerstone of the U.S. economy. Prior to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, millions of visitors traveled to the U.S. for its metropolises, national parks, and other famous attractions. At the same time, U.S. citizens also traveled abroad or explored their own country in shoals, making the travel sector a multi-million-dollar business. Following global lockdowns and travel bans, however, both inbound and outbound travel came to a drastic halt, best illustrated by the 40 percent drop in U.S. domestic travel spend and the even more rapid plunge in international travel spend. The number of U.S. residents traveling overseas dropped by almost 80 percent in 2020, but it also grew by 85 percent in 2021. As the United States and many other countries lifted the restrictions, travel and tourism has picked up again – a trend that advertisers embrace.

Travel advertising in a digitalized world

Advertising spending of the U.S. travel industry visibly plummeted in 2020 due to the impacts of the pandemic. Travel agencies, airlines, cruise lines, and other industry players reduced their promotional activities as they ran at limited capacity or shut down altogether. Luckily, already in the second quarter of 2021, the industry made a leap to catch up with the losses and the ad spend started nearing the pre-COVID levels. By early 2022, the travel sector was spending close to 500 million dollars on advertising.
Apart from pandemic-induced changes, the travel and tourism landscape is also being transformed by digitalization. Travelers integrate digital solutions into all stages of their travel experience, from researching travel destinations to booking transportation, accommodation, and on-site activities. As travelers use internet platforms more avidly than ever, travel marketers also increasingly focus on digital marketing channels such as social media. Digital has become the medium with the highest travel marketing ad spend in the U.S., with almost half of total expenditures allocated towards online campaigns. Overall, the U.S. travel industry’s digital ad spend amounted to 2.99 billion U.S. dollars in 2020, and while this figure marked a drop of around 50 percent compared to 2019, spending is forecast to rebound over the next few years.

Leading advertisers in the travel and tourism industry

The travel and tourism sector is a highly competitive marketplace. Even without the added burden of navigating travel restrictions and safety protocols, companies must stand out from the competition to attract customers and secure a slice of the lucrative travel pie. As of early 2021, Expedia was the leading travel advertiser on U.S. television, having spent close to 55.3 thousand U.S. dollars on TV promotion. While this figure was considerably lower than Expedia’s pre-pandemic expenditures, the online travel agency still invested heavily in advertising to remain relevant. One company that even boosted its TV ad spend in 2021 was transportation giant Uber. As people in the U.S. started returning to restaurants, bars, and other local venues, the tech company drummed up business for its ride-hailing service and other segments with the help of major ad campaigns – one of which was even aired during the opening ceremony of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.


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