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An early assessment of COVID-19’s impact on tourism in U.S. counties


  • Luyi Han
  • Stephan J Goetz
  • Daniel Eades
  • Jason Entsminger
  • Doug Arbogast


We use county-level data to examine how the COVID-19 pandemic affected the tourism and hospitality sector, which was by far the most impacted of all sectors, focusing on employment and wage changes. Results support our hypothesis that rural counties experienced fewer negative impacts or even benefited from the COVID-19 pandemic in terms of job growth . We present maps showing the pandemic’s effects on leisure and hospitality (L&H) employment across the nation, identifying the communities both hardest hit and least impacted. A linear regression model is developed to explore independent factors that influenced the pandemic’s local impact. Results are robust across different measures of the key variable (rurality), including rural-urban continuum codes, distance from metropolitan areas, and population density. We also consider the impacts of social capital, income, and local economic diversification, among other factors. Our results suggest that remote, less-populated counties were more likely to experience stable employment in the L&H sector relative to pre-pandemic levels, and in some cases even experienced employment growth. JEL Classification: J2, J3, R1

Suggested Citation

  • Luyi Han & Stephan J Goetz & Daniel Eades & Jason Entsminger & Doug Arbogast, 2023. "An early assessment of COVID-19’s impact on tourism in U.S. counties," Tourism Economics, , vol. 29(5), pages 1355-1375, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:toueco:v:29:y:2023:i:5:p:1355-1375
    DOI: 10.1177/13548166221107814

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    More about this item


    COVID-19; leisure and hospitality; rural-urban; employment and wage;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • J2 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor
    • J3 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs
    • R1 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General Regional Economics


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