As of 2018, the latest year with available figures, traveler spending brought $1.1 trillion to the United States, roughly 2.6% of the GDP, and contributed directly to about 8.9 million jobs. For many individual states, tourism is a key part of the economy. So which states rake in the biggest bucks from its visitors? Here are the top 10.
- Tourism is a key part of many state economies.
- Texas, California, and Florida earn the most from tourism each year—over $100 billion in revenues.
- Tourism earns tens of billions and generates hundreds of thousands of jobs for Nevada, New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Virginia.
Texas does everything big, including tourism. The state took in roughly $164 billion in 2018, keeping 525,700 employed. Since Texas is so expansive, about half of its tourism income is generated by its own residents. Tourism provides employees of the industry with an annual $15.4 billion payroll.
The Golden State is the tourism powerhouse of America, generating $140.6 billion in 2018, and accounting for over one million jobs. With its national parks, tourist attractions like the Golden Gate Bridge and Disney Land, plus expansive beaches and wine country, California has a variety of tourist hotspots throughout the state, making it the most visited state in the U.S. What's interesting to note is that Californians are their own largest pool of tourists: Roughly 80% of visits are made by state residents themselves.
With its expansive coastline and favorable winter weather, it's not surprising that Florida comes in third on the list of states earning the most tourism dollars, grossing $112 billion in revenue. Theme parks like Disney World and Universal Studios, and the beaches of Key West and Miami, are just some of the many tourist attractions luring visitors from around the world. Tourism keeps 757,100 people employed in the Sunshine State.
When you think of Nevada, you may first think of Las Vegas—and the city is indeed a jackpot for the state, generating $60 billion of the $65.8 billion in tourist revenue overall. But Nevada has many other attractions, including Lake Tahoe, that help tourism represent 13% of its GDP. Visitors to Nevada keep 492,000 people employed, accounting for a whopping 30% of jobs.
5. New York
The state of New York makes about $44 billion annually from tourists visiting the state, keeping 423,000 people on the payroll. Visitors to New York City account for about half of this income—not surprisingly, given the many iconic attractions, like the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty, and the unique activities (think: Broadway theater) that the Big Apple has to offer. Tourism makes up 4.9% of the city's jobs.
6. New Jersey
Like its neighbor across the river, New Jersey pulls around $44 billion from tourists, a figure that's grown for nine straight years. The Garden State offers plenty to do, from Atlantic City's casinos to Princeton's culture, though the Jersey shore's beaches account for about half of all spending by travelers. Tourism is the state’s seventh-largest industry, supporting nearly 334,000 jobs.
Increasing for eight years in a row, tourism is big business in the Land of Lincoln, bringing in nearly $41.7 billion in 2018. Illinois gets most of its domestic visitors from within the state and its neighbors Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan, and Missouri. Tourism keeps 342,300 people employed—one in 10 jobs in Illinois.
Nearly 200 million people visit Pennsylvania annually, spending $41 billion. With its rich heritage, outdoor entertainment and festivals and wineries, Pennsylvania keeps 490,000 people employed. Visitors mostly come from within the state itself or from neighboring states like New York and New Jersey.
Tourism is just peachy in Georgia: A record-breaking 111.7 million visitors provided $36.9 billion in revenue in 2018. It directly supports 478,000 jobs. Georgia visitors spend an average of $112 a day to visit Atlanta, historic attractions, and inviting beaches.
From history buffs to those attracted by the "Virginia is for Lovers" ad campaign (now in its 50th year), tourists to the commonwealth bring in an impressive $26 billion, and provide employment directly to 235,000 people. The travel industry is in fact, the sixth-largest employer in Virginia, accounting for 7% of all jobs. Most leisure visitors come by car from neighboring states and Washington D.C.