Expenditures on travel for pleasure declined sharply in response to the recent recession, and had not yet fully recovered by 2011. In 2008, the first full year of the recent n, consumers reported expenditures that were almost 3.5 percent lower than those reported in 2007. Reported expenditures declined another 9.8 percent in 2009, the year the recession officially ended. Although expenditures increased modestly (2.1 percent) in 2010, and more robustly (5.5 percent) in 2011, they were still lower than their 2007 peak. (See table 1.)
Travel expenditures are important to the average consumer, and to the economy as a whole. For consumers reporting them, expenditures on travel for pleasure averaged $4,700 in 2011. This is 22 percent more than the average consumer unit spent on food at home that year ($3,838), and well over half of what the typical renter spent on housing rented dwellings that year ($8,548). At the same time, the leisure and hospitality industry accounted for about 10 percent of total employment each year between 2004 and 2011.
As noted, the U.S. economy experienced a deep recession during this period, from which it has been slow to recover. In a period of high unemployment, it is reasonable to expect that many people who either become unemployed, or anticipate the prospect, will reduce their nonbusiness travel. If so, given the importance of leisure and hospitality in the U.S. economy, this reduction in travel spending could cause further economic contraction. Therefore, it is important to understand how consumer spending on nonbusiness travel changed both during and after the recession. To do so, this report examines data from the 2005 through 2011 Consumer Expenditure (CE) Quarterly Interview Surveys, which collected detailed information on travel expenditures from consumers across the United States.