Landmark Study by Sports ETA on U.S. Sports-Related Travel Shows $45.1 Billion Impact, Provides Benchmark for Post-COVID-19 Impact Measurement

 Posted on: September 1 2020
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Contact: Jackie Reau
Game Day
(513) 708-5822

Landmark Study by Sports ETA on U.S. Sports-Related Travel Shows $45.1 Billion Impact, Provides Benchmark for Post-COVID 19 Impact Measurement

Sports ETA Report Looks at Economic Impact of Sports Tourism in America

CINCINNATI (For Immediate Release) – U.S. sports travelers, event organizers and venues spent a total of $45.1 billion in 2019, an increase of over 5 percent from the previous year, generating $103.3 billion in direct, indirect and induced business sales, according to the 2019 State of the Sports Tourism Industry Report in America presented by the Sports Events and Tourism Association (Sports ETA) in partnership with the Northstar Meetings Group.

The landmark study presents the most comprehensive and representative data quantifying the value of sports-related travel in the United States. Conducted by Tourism Economics, an Oxford Economics company, the report incorporates original data from Sports ETA with Longwoods International Travel Survey Data, Bureau of Economic Analysis and Labor Statistics data, U.S. Travel Association data together with NCAA and annual sports attendance figures.

“This industry study will set a benchmark for the sports-related travel industry to use as we plan for a post COVID-19 environment and sports-related travel returns,” said Al Kidd, president and CEO of Sports ETA. “While 2020’s numbers will be severely affected by the pandemic, we expect the industry to bounce back once sports are able to resume.” 

The survey found that in 2019, nearly 180 million people traveled to a U.S. sporting event, either as a spectator or a participant. The sports tourism industry generated nearly 740,000 jobs over the year, including 410,000 direct and 328,000 indirect jobs.

“This is a landmark study that establishes the baseline against which the recovery of the sports-event industry will be measured,” said Timothy Schneider, founder of SportsTravel magazine and chairman of the Sports Division of the Northstar Travel Group. “By commissioning this study, Sports ETA has demonstrated its leadership in the sports industry and has provided an unparalleled data set that sports-event and sports-tourism advocates can cite when they’re making the case to devote precious resources to the development of the sports-related travel market.”

Additional major findings in the State of the Industry Report include:

  • Sports tourism generated $14.6 billion in tax revenues in 2019, with $6.8 billion of that going to state and local governments.
  • The number of sports travelers grew 2 percent from the year prior, and the number of people traveling to attend sports events in the United States has increased by more than 10 million since 2015.
  • Sports travelers, event organizers and venues spent $12.5 billion on transportation, $9.2 billion on lodging and $8.6 billion on food and beverages in the last year.
  • Overnight sports travelers grew to 96.4 million in 2019, an increase of 1.4 million from the previous year. An estimated 54 percent of all sports travelers spent the night in the event destination. Overnight sports travelers spent $359 per person trip, an increase of $12 year-over-year, while day-trippers spent $79 per person trip in 2019.

“Sports generate substantial economic impacts to destinations across the United States," said Adam Sacks, president of Tourism Economics, an Oxford Economics Company. "As a result, the recovery of sports-related travel will be an important driver of the economic recovery in the coming year.”

The report also analyzes the early impact of the COVID-19 shutdown on sports-related travel, noting that in March 2020 nearly 10 million fewer people traveled to participate in or watch a sporting event compared to the previous year, resulting in a loss of $2.5 billion in direct spending.

The report estimates that from March to December 2020, 75 million fewer people are expected to travel to sporting events compared to 2019, resulting in a loss of $20 billion in direct spending in 2020.

View the full report.

To arrange an interview with Al Kidd, contact Jackie Reau, Game Day, at or (513) 708-5822.


About Sports ETA

As the only trade association for the sports events and tourism industry, Sports ETA is the most trusted resource for sports commissions, destination marketing organizations (DMOs), and sports event owners. Sports ETA is committed to the success of more than 850 member organizations and 2,400 sports event professionals. Our promise is to deliver quality education, ample networking opportunities and exceptional event management and marketing know-how to our members, and to protect the integrity of the sports events and tourism industry. For more information, visit

About Northstar Travel Group

Northstar Travel Group is the leading B-to-B information and marketing solutions company serving all segments of the travel industry including leisure/retail, corporate/business travel, corporate and sports meetings, incentives, hospitality, and travel technology. Northstar is the owner of well-known brands including SportsTravel, Successful Meetings, Meetings & Conventions, Incentive, M&C China, Business Travel News, Travel Procurement, The Beat, Travel Weekly US, TravelAge West, Travel Weekly China, Travel42, Axus Travel App, and Web in Travel. The company produces more than 80 face-to-face and digital events in 13 countries in retail travel, hospitality, corporate travel, travel technology, sports travel, and the meetings & incentive industry. For more information, visit


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