Americans may not be fully back on their feet after the global economic slowdown, but there are signs that it’s not stopping many of them from pursuing leisure activities that require travel.
Government data released in the third week of March revealed that real spending on travel and tourism grew more than twice as fast as real gross domestic product (GDP) in the fourth quarter of 2014. It marks some acceleration in growth at the end of a year that otherwise compares unfavorably to the year before. For the whole of 2014, real spending on travel and tourism increased 2.5 percent in 2014 compared to an increase of 3.6 percent in 2013. By comparison, real GDP increased 2.4 percent in 2014 after increasing 2.2 percent in 2013.
Passenger air travel represented one of the growth points -- increasing 1.7 percent in the fourth quarter after decreasing 4.5 percent in the third quarter – as well as “recreation and entertainment," which increased 6.2 percent after decreasing 0.9 percent in the third quarter of the year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.
Some of the growth may be attributed to brisk ski seasons for many ski resorts, which are reporting higher guest spending on ski and snowboard lessons, food and restaurants and other ancillary services. According to data released by DestiMetrics, ski resorts in the Western U.S. are expecting record lodging sales based on booking patterns and economic indicators for the 2014-15 winter season despite a lack of snow in some areas. At the current pace, the final tally is expected to put revenues more than 10 percent ahead of last year and 4.6 percent above the pre-recession record established in the 2007-08 season, according to DestiMetrics.
When the numbers for the year are tallied, the snowy east may also show a record year in revenue when it comes to snow sports. Interestingly, the frequent snow storms in New England may have kept people at the mountains, rather than away from them, according to the Boston Globe, particularly over the lucrative President’s Day long weekend in mid-February.
“Many in the industry say all this extra snow has been a boon, for the free marketing and for the fresh powder on the slopes,” wrote the Boston Globe’s Jon Chesto. “Major resorts like Loon Mountain, Sunday River, and Killington all reported a stronger-than-normal [President’s Day weekend] as skiers extended their weekends to enjoy the good skiing up north and avoid the rough driving conditions back home.”
Eastern resorts such as Sugarloaf in Maine and Sugarbush in Vermont are reporting that their 2014-2015 seasons are shaping up to be well ahead of the previous year. Eastern resorts are also saving significant money on snowmaking due to the high natural snowfall totals from winter storms.