15 States Most Impacted by Travel Restrictions

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Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on CoPilot.

The spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19 has been a significant step backward in the nation’s efforts to fight the coronavirus pandemic. Cases and hospitalizations reached their highest levels since last winter and could rise again this winter, with large portions of the population still unvaccinated and the arrival of fall’s cooler temperatures and indoor gatherings.

In response, many jurisdictions returned to mask requirements, capacity restrictions, and other public health measures to slow the spread of the more infectious Delta variant, and individuals are rethinking their own behaviors and preferences to avoid the disease caused by the coronavirus.

The Delta variant’s spread has been particularly unwelcome news for segments of the economy that have been hard-hit by the pandemic. Early this summer, when vaccines were widely available, COVID-19 cases were on the decline, and mask requirements were lifted, sectors like travel and tourism, hospitality, and the arts were still hobbled — but a return to normal appeared to be in sight. Now, there is new uncertainty for these industries’ recovery.

Air travel provides one example. The Transportation Security Administration’s daily count of airport travelers plummeted to less than 100,000 per day at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020 and incrementally increased over the remainder of 2020 and the beginning of 2021. By the summer of 2021, the number of air travelers was back over 2 million per day but still lagged behind pre-pandemic levels. However, a recent survey by Longwoods International found that nearly two-thirds of travelers are changing trip plans in light of the coronavirus, with 1 in 6 postponing a trip until at least next year.

As consumer behavior changes in response to the continued spread of the virus, businesses, and workers in travel-dependent industries will also feel the effects. The accommodation and food services and arts, entertainment, and recreation sectors each saw their total employment effectively cut in half at the start of the pandemic and have been slow to recover since. Delta’s spread could continue to strain that recovery. And with the recent expiration of expanded federal unemployment benefits, those who are out of work could face even greater economic hardship.

U.S. States Most Impacted by Travel Restrictions

Teen wearing a mask on the bus
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State economies that depend heavily on travel- and tourism-related industries could also feel the effects of the uncertainty and caution around the Delta variant. Prior to COVID-19, 15% of Nevada’s GDP and 12.6% of Hawaii’s depended on the accommodation and food services industries, so a prolonged slowdown in travel would have major ramifications for them. Meanwhile, states like Tennessee and Florida that are leaders in arts, entertainment, and recreation have also been hard hit by recent surges in cases and may experience ongoing challenges in the months ahead.

Employment levels and GDP in these sectors can identify which states have been most impacted by travel restrictions — and which may be most vulnerable to future slowdowns. To find the states most impacted by travel restrictions, researchers at CoPilot used data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis to create a composite index based on the importance of tourism-driven sectors to each state’s economy and how much those sectors contracted during the first year of the pandemic. For a more detailed explanation of the factors that were considered, see the methodology section below.

The following are the states whose economies have been most impacted by travel restrictions.

15. New Jersey

Jersey City, New Jersey
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  • Impact score: 59.19
  • Change in accommodation and food services GDP: -23.5%
  • Change in arts, entertainment, and recreation GDP: -40.1%
  • Accommodation and food services share of GDP: 2.6%
  • Arts, entertainment, and recreation share of GDP: 1.2%
  • Accommodation and food services share of employment: 7.2%
  • Arts, entertainment, and recreation share of employment: 2.7%

14. Nevada

Las Vegas, Nevada
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  • Impact score: 59.45
  • Change in accommodation and food services GDP: -16.4%
  • Change in arts, entertainment, and recreation GDP: -22.1%
  • Accommodation and food services share of GDP: 15.0%
  • Arts, entertainment, and recreation share of GDP: 3.2%
  • Accommodation and food services share of employment: 19.4%
  • Arts, entertainment, and recreation share of employment: 3.6%

13. Illinois

Chicago, Illinois
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  • Impact score: 60.73
  • Change in accommodation and food services GDP: -21.8%
  • Change in arts, entertainment, and recreation GDP: -40.0%
  • Accommodation and food services share of GDP: 3.2%
  • Arts, entertainment, and recreation share of GDP: 1.3%
  • Accommodation and food services share of employment: 8.1%
  • Arts, entertainment, and recreation share of employment: 2.6%

12. North Carolina

Blue Ridge Parkway
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  • Impact score: 60.74
  • Change in accommodation and food services GDP: -22.4%
  • Change in arts, entertainment, and recreation GDP: -33.1%
  • Accommodation and food services share of GDP: 3.5%
  • Arts, entertainment, and recreation share of GDP: 1.0%
  • Accommodation and food services share of employment: 9.0%
  • Arts, entertainment, and recreation share of employment: 2.7%

11. Massachusetts

Boston, Massachusetts
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  • Impact score: 64.54
  • Change in accommodation and food services GDP: -20.8%
  • Change in arts, entertainment, and recreation GDP: -44.5%
  • Accommodation and food services share of GDP: 3.4%
  • Arts, entertainment, and recreation share of GDP: 1.3%
  • Accommodation and food services share of employment: 7.6%
  • Arts, entertainment, and recreation share of employment: 3.0%

10. California

Kings Canyon National Park in Calfornia
BlueBarronPhoto / Shutterstock.com
  • Impact score: 68.39
  • Change in accommodation and food services GDP: -21.0%
  • Change in arts, entertainment, and recreation GDP: -37.7%
  • Accommodation and food services share of GDP: 3.4%
  • Arts, entertainment, and recreation share of GDP: 1.6%
  • Accommodation and food services share of employment: 8.7%
  • Arts, entertainment, and recreation share of employment: 3.3%

9. Alaska

Sitka, Alaska waterfront, mountains in background.
Marc Cappelletti / Shutterstock.com
  • Impact score: 71.45
  • Change in accommodation and food services GDP: -24.3%
  • Change in arts, entertainment, and recreation GDP: -35.4%
  • Accommodation and food services share of GDP: 3.8%
  • Arts, entertainment, and recreation share of GDP: 0.8%
  • Accommodation and food services share of employment: 10.3%
  • Arts, entertainment, and recreation share of employment: 3.2%

8. Rhode Island

Warwick, Rhode Island
ShoreTie / Shutterstock.com
  • Impact score: 72.48
  • Change in accommodation and food services GDP: -21.9%
  • Change in arts, entertainment, and recreation GDP: -37.4%
  • Accommodation and food services share of GDP: 4.8%
  • Arts, entertainment, and recreation share of GDP: 1.1%
  • Accommodation and food services share of employment: 9.6%
  • Arts, entertainment, and recreation share of employment: 2.9%

7. Maine

Acadia National Park in Maine
Eric Urquhart / Shutterstock.com
  • Impact score: 74.74
  • Change in accommodation and food services GDP: -21.8%
  • Change in arts, entertainment, and recreation GDP: -37.7%
  • Accommodation and food services share of GDP: 5.3%
  • Arts, entertainment, and recreation share of GDP: 1.3%
  • Accommodation and food services share of employment: 9.0%
  • Arts, entertainment, and recreation share of employment: 3.1%

6. Tennessee

Street scene, Memphis, Tennessee.
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  • Impact score: 77.31
  • Change in accommodation and food services GDP: -20.8%
  • Change in arts, entertainment, and recreation GDP: -45.8%
  • Accommodation and food services share of GDP: 4.3%
  • Arts, entertainment, and recreation share of GDP: 2.2%
  • Accommodation and food services share of employment: 9.1%
  • Arts, entertainment, and recreation share of employment: 2.8%

5. Oregon

Bend, Oregon
melissamn / Shutterstock.com
  • Impact score: 77.55
  • Change in accommodation and food services GDP: -23.6%
  • Change in arts, entertainment, and recreation GDP: -39.7%
  • Accommodation and food services share of GDP: 4.0%
  • Arts, entertainment, and recreation share of GDP: 1.1%
  • Accommodation and food services share of employment: 9.1%
  • Arts, entertainment, and recreation share of employment: 3.1%

4. New York

New York taxi
Luciano Mortula – LGM / Shutterstock.com
  • Impact score: 79.60
  • Change in accommodation and food services GDP: -40.2%
  • Change in arts, entertainment, and recreation GDP: -47.6%
  • Accommodation and food services share of GDP: 3.3%
  • Arts, entertainment, and recreation share of GDP: 1.9%
  • Accommodation and food services share of employment: 7.6%
  • Arts, entertainment, and recreation share of employment: 3.5%

3. New Hampshire

Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com
  • Impact score: 83.41
  • Change in accommodation and food services GDP: -24.2%
  • Change in arts, entertainment, and recreation GDP: -50.2%
  • Accommodation and food services share of GDP: 4.3%
  • Arts, entertainment, and recreation share of GDP: 1.8%
  • Accommodation and food services share of employment: 8.2%
  • Arts, entertainment, and recreation share of employment: 3.1%

2. Vermont

Lake Memphremagog in Newport, Vermont
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  • Impact score: 85.44
  • Change in accommodation and food services GDP: -22.5%
  • Change in arts, entertainment, and recreation GDP: -38.8%
  • Accommodation and food services share of GDP: 6.7%
  • Arts, entertainment, and recreation share of GDP: 1.4%
  • Accommodation and food services share of employment: 9.7%
  • Arts, entertainment, and recreation share of employment: 3.5%

1. Hawaii

Honolulu, Hawaii
MNStudio / Shutterstock.com
  • Impact score: 91.35
  • Change in accommodation and food services GDP: -35.9%
  • Change in arts, entertainment, and recreation GDP: -38.6%
  • Accommodation and food services share of GDP: 12.6%
  • Arts, entertainment, and recreation share of GDP: 1.5%
  • Accommodation and food services share of employment: 16.2%
  • Arts, entertainment, and recreation share of employment: 3.5%

Detailed Findings & Methodology

Tourism at a hotel during the coronavirus
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The data used in this analysis is from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis’s Regional Data on GDP and Personal Income. To determine the states that were most affected by travel restrictions, researchers created a weighted impact score for each state using the following metrics and weights:

  • Change in accommodation and food services GDP (2X): the percentage change in gross domestic product for the accommodation and food services sector between 2019 and 2020.
  • Change in arts, entertainment, and recreation GDP (2X): the percentage change in gross domestic product for the arts, entertainment, and recreation sector between 2019 and 2020.
  • Accommodation and food services share of GDP (1X): the proportion of total private industry gross domestic product accounted for by the accommodation and food services sector in 2019.
  • Arts, entertainment, and recreation share of GDP (1X): the proportion of total private industry gross domestic product accounted for by the arts, entertainment, and recreation sector in 2019.
  • Accommodation and food services share of employment (1X): the proportion of total private nonfarm employment accounted for by the accommodation and food services sector in 2019.
  • Arts, entertainment, and recreation share of employment (1X): the proportion of total private nonfarm employment accounted for by the arts, entertainment, and recreation sector in 2019.

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