AUSTIN, Texas — After a year of less travel and tourism, the industry is starting to see a strong return in Texas as more people choose to travel and the vaccine rollout ramps up.
In 2019, travelers spent $83 billion on travel in Texas. But during the pandemic, that dropped to only $56.9 billion, a decline of more than 31%. That led to more than 580,000 job losses in Texas alone.
About 200,000 of those employees are still without jobs, according to the Texas Travel Alliance. Many of those sustained job losses are attributed to meetings and events still not making a full comeback.
But as the COVID-19 vaccine rollout continues and people get more comfortable returning to normal, the Lone Star State is starting to see a strong return for travel and tourism.
"We've seen really strong economic gains, particularly in March and April of 2021. Spring break was a really important time for people to be able to get back out," said Erika Boyd, interim president and CEO of the Texas Travel Alliance. "Many of our businesses reported 2019 numbers or better for their March and April."
The strong return comes as air travel picks up across the country. In April, the Transportation Security Administration screened more than 1 million passengers each day at airports nationwide for the first time in more than a year.
"There are so many things that families might do when they travel and that hits so many different sectors of the economy. They're going to eat at a restaurant or pick up takeout. They're going to go to an attraction. They're going to go to a museum. They're going to do so many different things that will lift the economy across multiple sectors," Boyd said.
The spending by travelers led to a $169.8 billion economic impact on the Texas economy in 2019. But with fewer travelers in 2020, the economic impact decreased by more than $53 billion.
"It has been a very strong recovery so far and that is in large part [due] to people being able to get out and travel, feeling more comfortable having been vaccinated and the opportunity to really see Texas again," Boyd said. "We are very optimistic that we will see a strong summer travel season."
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