Sports ETA Report Looks at Economic Impact of U.S. Sports Travel Post-COVID 19 Impact

The Winston-Salem Open. Photo Credit: Fred Mullane/Camerawork USA

CINCINNATI — U.S. sports travelers, event organizers and venues spent a total of $45.1 billion in 2019, an increase of more than five percent from 2018 according to the 2019 State of the Sports Tourism Industry Report in the U.S. by Sports Events and Tourism Association (Sports ETA).

The study presents data quantifying the value of sports-related travel in the U.S. Conducted by Tourism Economics, an Oxford Economics company, the report incorporates data from Sports ETA with Longwoods International Travel Survey Data, Bureau of Economic Analysis and Labor Statistics data, U.S. Travel Association data and NCAA and annual sports attendance figures.

“This industry study will set a benchmark for the sports-related travel industry to use as we plan for a post-COVID-19 environment and sports-related travel returns,” said Al Kidd, president and CEO of Sports ETA. “While 2020s numbers will be severely affected by the pandemic, we expect the industry to bounce back once sports are able to resume.”

The report indicates $103.3 billion in direct, indirect and induced business sales, according to the 2019 State of the Sports Tourism Industry Report. The survey found that nearly 180 million people traveled to a U.S. sporting event in 2019, either as a spectator or participant. The sports tourism industry generated nearly 740,000 jobs over the year, including 410,000 direct and 328,000 indirect jobs.

Additional findings of the report found that sports tourism generated $14.6 billion in tax revenues in 2019 and the number of sports travelers grew two percent from the prior year. The number of people traveling to sports events in the United States has increased by more than 10 million since 2015.

Overnight sports travelers grew to 96.4 million in 2019, an increase of 1.4 million from the previous year and those travelers, event organizers and venues spent $12.5 billion on transportation, $9.2 billion on lodging and $8.6 billion on food and beverages.

Approximately 54 percent of all sports travelers spent the night in the destination.

“Sports generate substantial economic impacts to destinations across the United States,” said Adam Sacks, president of Tourism Economics, an Oxford Economics Company. “As a result, the recovery of sports-related travel will be an important driver of the economic recovery in the coming year.”

The report also analyzed the impact of the COVID-19 shutdown on sports travel. In March 2020, nearly 10 million fewer people traveled to participate in or watch a sporting event compared to the previous year, resulting in a loss of $2.5 billion in direct spending.

The report estimates that 75 million fewer people are expected to travel to sporting events from March to December 2020 compared to 2019, resulting in a loss of $20 billion in direct spending in 2020.