Visitors to a New Jersey boardwalk on Memorial Day, 2019. Photo: Kena Betancur/Getty Images

Unemployment among the 15.8 million travel workers in the U.S. has topped 51% heading into Memorial Day weekend, per data cited by the U.S. Travel Association.

The state of play: Research firm Tourism Economics projects that U.S. travel spending during Memorial Day weekend will total $4.2 billion this year — approximately one-third of the $12.3 billion spent in 2019. Tourism makes up 2.8% of the U.S. economy, as of last year.

  • The U.S. is reporting over 1.5 million coronavirus cases and more than 91,000 deaths.

The overwhelming majority of communities across America have moved into their first phase of reopening, allowing residents to visit businesses with tightened occupancy limits and social distancing requirements.

  • But many people remain weary of travel, hitting counties and states that depend on tourism dollars the hardest.
  • The Brookings Institution projects that places like Las Vegas, Atlantic City and Kahului, Hawaii will suffer most during the coronavirus pandemic.

What they're saying: U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow wrote in a statement, "Our national economy is in a recession, but the travel industry is already in a depression."

  • "The travel industry has exhibited the ability to lead a national economic recovery, bouncing back well ahead of expectations after both 9/11 and the financial crisis of the late 2000s," he added.
  • "But to do that this time, travel-reliant businesses need to survive until a recovery can truly begin."

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