Travel

Here’s what the travel-related retail comeback looks like, in four charts

Like your flight to Cancún, the travel industry is taking off.
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Airplane!/Paramount Pictures via Giphy

· less than 3 min read

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Perhaps no sector was pummeled as badly by Covid as travel, an industry that can’t help but impact all manner of retail, since many visitors are apt to shop at the same stores and eat at the same restaurants as the locals.

In 2019, the US welcomed 79.4 million international visitors, but in 2020, when the pandemic shut down so much of the world, that number nosedived to 19.2 million, and in 2021, rose only marginally to 22.1 million, according to US Commerce Department figures cited by Reuters.

  • Those international tourists spent $239.4 billion in 2019, but that shrank to just $81 billion in 2020, according to the agency.

On Monday, the Commerce Department will introduce a plan to boost tourism, called—clearly they hired branding consultants for this one—the National Travel and Tourism Strategy. Some of the goals are as lofty as a 747 at cruising altitude, like getting 90 million visitors spending ~$279 billion annually by 2027.

In the meantime, there are signs that travel—and travel-related retail—is already beginning to rebound. Forgive us for getting graphic…but here are some examples.

While Target is in the headlines for needing to unload excess inventory of peak-pandemic hot sellers, like small appliances and lawn furniture, it also reports that luggage is a bright spot, with sales up more than 50% YoY in Q1.

It would be premature to empty the minibar in celebration, though. Hotel business nationally is projected to be down 23.1% in 2022 compared to pre-pandemic 2019, according to an April study by the American Hotel and Lodging Association and Kalibri Labs. San Francisco is the market projected to be the least recovered this year, down 68.8% from 2019, followed by New York (down 55.3%), and Washington, DC (down 54.4%).

Products like cigarettes, booze, and luxury goods that are popular at duty-free shops all are reporting sales bumps from the return of the stores.

Before you get slapped with any carry-on fees though, note that your neck pillow could also be a stealth suitcase.—AAN

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