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States Most Impacted by Travel Restrictions

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The spread of COVID-19’s Delta variant has been a significant step backward in the U.S.’s efforts to fight off 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 fall’s cooler temperatures and indoor gatherings approaching.

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

Delta’s spread has been particularly unwelcome news for segments of the economy that have been hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Early in summer of 2021, when vaccines were widely available, 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 TSA’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 2,000,000 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 one in six 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 accommodations 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.


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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 industry, 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.

Here are the state economies that have been most impacted by travel restrictions.

U.S. States Most Impacted by Travel Restrictions


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15. New Jersey

  • Impact score: 59.19
  • Change in accommodation & food services GDP: -23.5%
  • Change in arts, entertainment, & rec GDP: -40.1%
  • Accommodation & food services share of GDP: 2.6%
  • Arts, entertainment, & rec share of GDP: 1.2%
  • Accommodation & food services share of employment: 7.2%
  • Arts, entertainment, & rec share of employment: 2.7%

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14. Nevada

  • Impact score: 59.45
  • Change in accommodation & food services GDP: -16.4%
  • Change in arts, entertainment, & rec GDP: -22.1%
  • Accommodation & food services share of GDP: 15.0%
  • Arts, entertainment, & rec share of GDP: 3.2%
  • Accommodation & food services share of employment: 19.4%
  • Arts, entertainment, & rec share of employment: 3.6%


Photo Credit: Oleg Podzorov / Shutterstock

13. Illinois

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


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12. North Carolina

  • Impact score: 60.74
  • Change in accommodation & food services GDP: -22.4%
  • Change in arts, entertainment, & rec GDP: -33.1%
  • Accommodation & food services share of GDP: 3.5%
  • Arts, entertainment, & rec share of GDP: 1.0%
  • Accommodation & food services share of employment: 9.0%
  • Arts, entertainment, & rec share of employment: 2.7%


Photo Credit: Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

11. Massachusetts

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


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10. California

  • Impact score: 68.39
  • Change in accommodation & food services GDP: -21.0%
  • Change in arts, entertainment, & rec GDP: -37.7%
  • Accommodation & food services share of GDP: 3.4%
  • Arts, entertainment, & rec share of GDP: 1.6%
  • Accommodation & food services share of employment: 8.7%
  • Arts, entertainment, & rec share of employment: 3.3%


Photo Credit: Marcus Biastock / Shutterstock

9. Alaska

  • Impact score: 71.45
  • Change in accommodation & food services GDP: -24.3%
  • Change in arts, entertainment, & rec GDP: -35.4%
  • Accommodation & food services share of GDP: 3.8%
  • Arts, entertainment, & rec share of GDP: 0.8%
  • Accommodation & food services share of employment: 10.3%
  • Arts, entertainment, & rec share of employment: 3.2%


Photo Credit: Richard Cavalleri / Shutterstock

8. Rhode Island

  • Impact score: 72.48
  • Change in accommodation & food services GDP: -21.9%
  • Change in arts, entertainment, & rec GDP: -37.4%
  • Accommodation & food services share of GDP: 4.8%
  • Arts, entertainment, & rec share of GDP: 1.1%
  • Accommodation & food services share of employment: 9.6%
  • Arts, entertainment, & rec share of employment: 2.9%


Photo Credit: Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

7. Maine

  • Impact score: 74.74
  • Change in accommodation & food services GDP: -21.8%
  • Change in arts, entertainment, & rec GDP: -37.7%
  • Accommodation & food services share of GDP: 5.3%
  • Arts, entertainment, & rec share of GDP: 1.3%
  • Accommodation & food services share of employment: 9.0%
  • Arts, entertainment, & rec share of employment: 3.1%


Photo Credit: Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

6. Tennessee

  • Impact score: 77.31
  • Change in accommodation & food services GDP: -20.8%
  • Change in arts, entertainment, & rec GDP: -45.8%
  • Accommodation & food services share of GDP: 4.3%
  • Arts, entertainment, & rec share of GDP: 2.2%
  • Accommodation & food services share of employment: 9.1%
  • Arts, entertainment, & rec share of employment: 2.8%


Photo Credit: Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

5. Oregon

  • Impact score: 77.55
  • Change in accommodation & food services GDP: -23.6%
  • Change in arts, entertainment, & rec GDP: -39.7%
  • Accommodation & food services share of GDP: 4.0%
  • Arts, entertainment, & rec share of GDP: 1.1%
  • Accommodation & food services share of employment: 9.1%
  • Arts, entertainment, & rec share of employment: 3.1%

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Photo Credit: Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

4. New York

  • Impact score: 79.60
  • Change in accommodation & food services GDP: -40.2%
  • Change in arts, entertainment, & rec GDP: -47.6%
  • Accommodation & food services share of GDP: 3.3%
  • Arts, entertainment, & rec share of GDP: 1.9%
  • Accommodation & food services share of employment: 7.6%
  • Arts, entertainment, & rec share of employment: 3.5%


Photo Credit: Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

3. New Hampshire

  • Impact score: 83.41
  • Change in accommodation & food services GDP: -24.2%
  • Change in arts, entertainment, & rec GDP: -50.2%
  • Accommodation & food services share of GDP: 4.3%
  • Arts, entertainment, & rec share of GDP: 1.8%
  • Accommodation & food services share of employment: 8.2%
  • Arts, entertainment, & rec share of employment: 3.1%


Photo Credit: Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

2. Vermont

  • Impact score: 85.44
  • Change in accommodation & food services GDP: -22.5%
  • Change in arts, entertainment, & rec GDP: -38.8%
  • Accommodation & food services share of GDP: 6.7%
  • Arts, entertainment, & rec share of GDP: 1.4%
  • Accommodation & food services share of employment: 9.7%
  • Arts, entertainment, & rec share of employment: 3.5%


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1. Hawaii

  • Impact score: 91.35
  • Change in accommodation & food services GDP: -35.9%
  • Change in arts, entertainment, & rec GDP: -38.6%
  • Accommodation & food services share of GDP: 12.6%
  • Arts, entertainment, & rec share of GDP: 1.5%
  • Accommodation & food services share of employment: 16.2%
  • Arts, entertainment, & rec share of employment: 3.5%

Detailed Findings & Methodology

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 impacted by travel restrictions, researchers created a weighted impact score for each state using the following metrics and weights: 

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