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As the years pass, Americans seem to become busier and busier, leaving more vacation time unused than ever before while spending more on what vacation they do enjoy. Last year almost half of working Americans used only some of their paid vacation time, according to US Travel Association’s Project Time Off, with more than 650 million days left unused. 

  • Workers in Idaho led the country in unused vacation with almost 78 percent of available vacation time unused.  
  • During the last five years, Americans have increased their spending on leisure travel by roughly 10 percent. Notably, the number of leisure trips Americans’ have taken to overseas destinations has also risen, contributing to a nearly 15 percent increase in spending for international travel, a jump from $131 billion in 2012 to $151 billion in 2016.

While researchers debate the economic and employee health consequences of unused vacation days, another debate continues in the United States around the value of establishing state and/or federally mandated paid vacation benefits.

  • According to Business Insider, Americans should use vacation time to pump tax and sales revenue into the economy, increase worker productivity, and improve the health of employees. 
  • Maine is one state pushing to improve vacation leave policies (view relevant statistics in the visualizations below!), while businesses in select major cities are also offering more generous vacation policies. UBS statistics show that paid vacation days have been increasing in New York, Chicago, Miami, and Los Angeles; in New York, days more than doubled from 2012 to 2015.
  • US federal law excludes any legal minimum for paid vacation benefits. In contrast, Australia, for example, has a 25-day statutory annual leave minimum with an additional 13 paid holidays. 

Expenditures by US travelers is expected to grow during the next 10 years, but whether new company-specific vacation benefits or potential regulatory requirements will encourage similar growth in vacation days used remains anyone’s guess.

  • The World Travel and Tourism Council projects that Americans' spending on domestic and leisure travel—which make up almost 45% and 40%, respectively, of US total travel expenditures—will increase by approximately $300 billion each between 2017 and 2027.
  • Business travel—another 15% of total tourism expenses—should also grow steadily, from roughly $320 billion in 2017 to $377 billion in 2027. 

See also: World Travel&Tourism expenditure | Worldwide: Tourism and business destinations 

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