U.S. tourism spending growth outpaces GDP in first quarter

Real Direct Tourism Output -- all of the accommodations, transportation and souvenirs purchased by travelers in the U.S. -- increased at an annual rate of 2.3% during the first quarter, according to figures released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis, a unit of the Commerce Department.

In contrast, the real gross domestic product in the first quarter grew at an annual rate of 0.6%.

Prices for tourism goods and services increased 3.4% in the first quarter from first-quarter 2006.

Overall, direct and indirect tourism-related sales totaled $1.3 trillion during the first quarter, including $717.9 billion in direct goods and $546.4 billion in indirect goods and services sold to travelers, the BEA said.

The increase in consumer travel purchases helped bolster first-quarter tourism employment, which grew 3.1% year over year. 

Tourism employment increased 6.3% in fourth-quarter 2006; by comparison, overall U.S. employment rose only 1.5% in that quarter.

The BEA estimated that the tourism industry employed 8.6 million people during the fourth quarter of 2006. Of that, 5.9 million were employed in jobs directly related to the industry, while 2.7 million were employed indirectly.

The BEA said indirect travel-related jobs involved companies that, for instance, produced the ingredients used to make meals served to airline passengers and plastics used for souvenirs.

Employment within the lodging industry grew 4.6% in the fourth quarter from fourth-quarter 2005, which the BEA said was the largest increase since the fourth quarter of 1999.

Meanwhile, employment in air transportation services during the fourth quarter increased 1%, an improvement after seven straight quarters of decline.

Passenger air transportation grew 3.1% during the first quarter.

Prices for air tickets inched up 0.1% in the first quarter.

Lodging sales rose 2.9% in the first quarter. Lodging prices were up 2.9%, marking the sixth consecutive quarter of price growth.


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