An early assessment of COVID-19’s impact on tourism in U.S. counties

We use county-level data to examine how the COVID-19 pandemic affected the tourism and hospitality sector, which was by far the most impacted of all sectors, focusing on employment and wage changes. Results support our hypothesis that rural counties experienced fewer negative impacts or even benefited from the COVID-19 pandemic in terms of job growth. We present maps showing the pandemic’s effects on leisure and hospitality (L&H) employment across the nation, identifying the communities both hardest hit and least impacted. A linear regression model is developed to explore independent factors that influenced the pandemic’s local impact. Results are robust across different measures of the key variable (rurality), including rural-urban continuum codes, distance from metropolitan areas, and population density. We also consider the impacts of social capital, income, and local economic diversification, among other factors. Our results suggest that remote, less-populated counties were more likely to experience stable employment in the L&H sector relative to pre-pandemic levels, and in some cases even experienced employment growth.

Authors: Luyi Han, Stephan J. Goetz, Daniel Eades, Jason Entsminger, Doug Arbogast

Publication: Tourism Economics   Date Published: June 16, 2022

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