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States hit hardest by COVID-19’s impact on tourism

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States hit hardest by COVID-19’s impact on tourism

Travel is more than just a chance to get a change of scenery and take a break from everyday life. At the macro level, it’s a critical economic driver, especially for destinations that depend on tourism. Travelers in 2019 spent $1.1 trillion in the U.S., generating some $2.6 trillion in economic output, according to the U.S. Travel Association. The organization estimates that each American household would shell out almost $1,400 more in taxes if the country lacked the tax revenue that comes from travel and tourism.

Americans took 1.9 billion trips for leisure in 2019. But in 2020, that number could look very different. COVID-19 has had a huge impact on tourism across the country. Thousands of flights have been canceled by U.S.-based airlines. Tourist attractions, like Disney World, Broadway shows, The Alamo, the Statue of Liberty, Smithsonian museums, and the Santa Monica Pier, have closed—sometimes with no scheduled reopening date. And even if there were places to visit safely, Americans may not have the financial means to travel after the financial blow they’ve taken from the economic downturn caused by the pandemic.

Some states are being hit harder than others by COVID-19’s impact on tourism. Stacker used WalletHub’s “States Hit Hardest by COVID-19’s Impact on Tourism” study, published on April 14, 2020, to compile a list of the states most affected by the lack of travel and tourism due to COVID-19. The states are ranked by their total WalletHub score, which evaluated the states based on 10 different metrics across two categories: dependency on travel and the tourism industry and aggressiveness against coronavirus.

Wondering how your state might be impacted by a lack of visitors? Read on to learn more about COVID-19’s effect on tourism and see where your state stands.

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#51. Arkansas

- Total WalletHub score: 26.8
- Dependency on travel and tourism industry rank: #45
- Aggressiveness against coronavirus rank: #49

Arkansas’ main tourism destination, the city of Hot Springs, is projecting huge losses as a result of the coronavirus. Three of the city’s best-known tourist attractions—the World's Shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Bathhouse Row, and Oaklawn Racing—were shut down in March.

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#50. Iowa

- Total WalletHub score: 30.4
- Dependency on travel and tourism industry rank: #40
- Aggressiveness against coronavirus rank: #48

Tourism is responsible for $9 billion of Iowa’s economy. With stay-at-home orders in place, some areas of the state saw major losses in revenue. The town of Ames, for example, as of April 29 had lost around $2.8 million in its hospitality market since the pandemic started.

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#49. Oklahoma

- Total WalletHub score: 30.9
- Dependency on travel and tourism industry rank: #43
- Aggressiveness against coronavirus rank: #46

Travelers usually spend about $1 billion per year in Tulsa, Oklahoma, each year. With tourism at a standstill during the COVID-19 outbreak, the state set its hopes on a turnaround in 2021. The Tulsa Regional Tourism organization by early May had already begun to fill its 2021 calendar with events like a national bass fishing contest to draw visitors.

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#48. Nebraska

- Total WalletHub score: 31.3
- Dependency on travel and tourism industry rank: #37
- Aggressiveness against coronavirus rank: #50

A lack of visitors during the pandemic, due to the cancellation of the in-person version of Berkshire Hathaway’s annual shareholders meeting, may cost Omaha $21.3 million. The city of Grand Island, another tourist destination, is forecast to have a $15.4 million loss in its hotel and motel industry during the pandemic, according to April numbers provided by the Grand Island Chamber of Commerce.

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#47. Alabama

- Total WalletHub score: 33.4
- Dependency on travel and tourism industry rank: #47
- Aggressiveness against coronavirus rank: #43

The COVID-19 crisis is gutting Alabama’s tourism and hospitality sectors, putting tens of thousands of people out of work. In Mobile, around 13,000 of the city’s 17,000 hospitality workers were estimated to be unemployed as of April 23, according to the Huntsville Real-Time News.

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#46. Wisconsin

- Total WalletHub score: 33.6
- Dependency on travel and tourism industry rank: #50
- Aggressiveness against coronavirus rank: #32

From March 7 to April 4, COVID-19 caused a $642 million drop in travel spending in Wisconsin, according to the U.S. Travel Association. The tourism sector is banking on a recovery in the second half of 2020.

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#45. Indiana

- Total WalletHub score: 34.0
- Dependency on travel and tourism industry rank: #49
- Aggressiveness against coronavirus rank: #26

While hotels in Indianapolis are typically 70% occupied, as of April 28 they had occupancy rates of just 7%, according to the Associated Press. Stats from Visit Indy show visitors to the city typically inject about $5.6 billion into the local economy.

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#44. Mississippi

- Total WalletHub score: 34.3
- Dependency on travel and tourism industry rank: #46
- Aggressiveness against coronavirus rank: #42

The hotel industry in Mississippi may see its direct workforce decline by 15,000 jobs, based on March projections from the American Hotel & Lodging Association. Including those who work in hotel-related jobs, those numbers climb to 33,000 people out of work. Hotel occupancy throughout the state was at 10% at the beginning of May, according to Visit Jackson President and CEO Rickey Thigpen. Normally at the same time of year, occupancy is at 60-70%.

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#43. South Dakota

- Total WalletHub score: 35.7
- Dependency on travel and tourism industry rank: #26
- Aggressiveness against coronavirus rank: #51

South Dakota is seeing a 70% drop in visitor spending during the pandemic, according to comments made by Yankton Convention & Visitor’s Bureau director Kasi Haberman. However, its state parks are still open, which is helping insulate some tourism markets from the financial impact of the coronavirus.

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#42. North Dakota

- Total WalletHub score: 35.9
- Dependency on travel and tourism industry rank: #30
- Aggressiveness against coronavirus rank: #47

Tourism is responsible for around 42,000 jobs in North Dakota. Its top tourist attraction, Theodore Roosevelt National Park, closed in mid-April in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus, reopened to visitors May 9.

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#41. Minnesota

- Total WalletHub score: 36.9
- Dependency on travel and tourism industry rank: #44
- Aggressiveness against coronavirus rank: #20

Many local economies in Minnesota depend on the state’s $16 billion dollar tourism industry. The state’s popular campgrounds and resorts have made changes amid the pandemic, such as closing group and event spaces, so they can open for the season while ensuring guests follow social distancing measures.

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#40. Pennsylvania

- Total WalletHub score: 37.3
- Dependency on travel and tourism industry rank: #42
- Aggressiveness against coronavirus rank: #24

Travel restrictions and pandemic-related closures have been a gut punch to the tourism industry in many parts of Pennsylvania. York County, which usually receives more than $1 billion from traveler spending annually, has seen hotel occupancy rates take a nosedive by almost half during the COVID-19 crisis.

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#39. Michigan

- Total WalletHub score: 37.7
- Dependency on travel and tourism industry rank: #41
- Aggressiveness against coronavirus rank: #40

Business owners in Michigan’s lakeshore communities, which rely on summer tourism, have expressed that they may not be able to recover from a major loss in visitors during the high season. The state welcomed more than 120 million tourists in 2017; a number expected to drop precipitously in 2020.

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#38. Ohio

- Total WalletHub score: 38.1
- Dependency on travel and tourism industry rank: #51
- Aggressiveness against coronavirus rank: #9

Ohio’s busiest airport, Cleveland Hopkins International, and its Akron-Canton Airport mirror national slumps in ticket sales, with dramatic slowdowns in traffic during the pandemic. Many flights to the airports have been canceled, causing projected shortfalls of hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars for the airports.

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#37. Kentucky

- Total WalletHub score: 38.7
- Dependency on travel and tourism industry rank: #48
- Aggressiveness against coronavirus rank: #11

Tourism officials in Kentucky predicted in April that the impact of COVID-19 on its tourism “will be felt for years to come.” Shutdowns across the state have included Natural Bridge and Cumberland Falls; major events; the postponement of the Kentucky Derby; and restricted hours at popular attractions.

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#36. Kansas

- Total WalletHub score: 39.3
- Dependency on travel and tourism industry rank: #39
- Aggressiveness against coronavirus rank: #19

The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism saw a marked rise in the use of lakes, public lands, and parks in March and April amid the COVID-19 crisis. However, a lack of out-of-state visitors may impact the department’s bottom line down the road.

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#35. North Carolina

- Total WalletHub score: 40.0
- Dependency on travel and tourism industry rank: #36
- Aggressiveness against coronavirus rank: #39

North Carolina broke tourism-spending records every year from 2009 through 2019. That trend is likely to buck in 2020, though, as police by mid-March had blocked roads to the Outer Banks (one of the state’s major tourist hot spots) to keep visitors away.

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#34. Missouri

- Total WalletHub score: 40.7
- Dependency on travel and tourism industry rank: #35
- Aggressiveness against coronavirus rank: #37

The St. Louis Gateway Arch, one of Missouri’s top attractions, typically draws around 2 million visitors every year. With the on-site museum and tram closed due to COVID-19, visitors to the arch grounds had fallen by mid-April to just 1,000 per day.

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#33. West Virginia

- Total WalletHub score: 40.9
- Dependency on travel and tourism industry rank: #38
- Aggressiveness against coronavirus rank: #13

During the pandemic, West Virginia became known as “an ideal destination for social distancing.” The state has drawn visitors from Washington D.C. who want to get out of the city. Some people in the tourism industry have tried to capitalize on the influx of visitors by dropping the price of vacation rentals.

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#32. Utah

- Total WalletHub score: 41.5
- Dependency on travel and tourism industry rank: #32
- Aggressiveness against coronavirus rank: #43

Utah usually earns about $26 million in revenue per day from tourism. That number may have dropped by as much as 99% since February. A number of Salt Lake City businesses question whether they'll survive: 29 significant events in the state's capital have already been cancelled.

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#31. New Jersey

- Total WalletHub score: 42.6
- Dependency on travel and tourism industry rank: #33
- Aggressiveness against coronavirus rank: #16

One of New Jersey’s top attractions, the Jersey Shore, raked in more than $7 billion in revenue from tourists in 2018 alone. This year, however, businesses in these beach towns are braced for a summer full of potential changes—whether beachgoers lounging 6 feet apart or people wearing masks on the boardwalk—that could spell trouble for tourism revenue.

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#30. Texas

- Total WalletHub score: 43.0
- Dependency on travel and tourism industry rank: #31
- Aggressiveness against coronavirus rank: #27

Tourism represents the third-largest industry in San Antonio, Texas. As of April 30, the city reported $74 million in losses overall, with about 22 contracts for conventions canceled.

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#29. Virginia

- Total WalletHub score: 43.0
- Dependency on travel and tourism industry rank: #29
- Aggressiveness against coronavirus rank: #38

Traveler spending in Virginia dropped 78% by late March, compared to the same time period the previous year. Some of the state’s festivals have been canceled and parks have sat vacant during the pandemic.

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#28. Georgia

- Total WalletHub score: 43.8
- Dependency on travel and tourism industry rank: #28
- Aggressiveness against coronavirus rank: #35

COVID-19 has had varying effects on tourism in parts of Georgia. Some places, like the Golden Isles and Savannah, have already seen hits on hotel occupancy rates and are expecting huge economic losses. Others, like Tybee Island and the beaches, readied for an increase in visitors as stay-at-home orders lifted in early May.

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#27. Louisiana

- Total WalletHub score: 44.7
- Dependency on travel and tourism industry rank: #27
- Aggressiveness against coronavirus rank: #22

Louisiana began reopening May 15. However, the sector’s future is still uncertain in some areas, particularly New Orleans, where the mayor called for a postponement of all city festivals until 2021.

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#26. South Carolina

- Total WalletHub score: 44.7
- Dependency on travel and tourism industry rank: #25
- Aggressiveness against coronavirus rank: #34

Visitor spending in South Carolina took taken a $1.6 billion nosedive between early March and the end of April, representing a drop of 44% from the same period the previous year. The state began its second phase of reopening—including close-contact busineses like salons and gyms—May 18.

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#25. Oregon

- Total WalletHub score: 45.5
- Dependency on travel and tourism industry rank: #24
- Aggressiveness against coronavirus rank: #31

Tourism in Oregon is expected to continue to decline through the summer. While projected losses are still unknown, the state may lose billions of dollars from COVID-19’s impact on tourism.

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#24. Illinois

- Total WalletHub score: 45.9
- Dependency on travel and tourism industry rank: #23
- Aggressiveness against coronavirus rank: #28

Big events and conventions in Chicago have been canceled or postponed due to COVID-19. As a result, an estimated 495,000 people who would have otherwise visited Chicago are now staying home, costing the city and state a serious drop in hotel revenue and visitor spending.

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#23. Delaware

- Total WalletHub score: 47.0
- Dependency on travel and tourism industry rank: #34
- Aggressiveness against coronavirus rank: #7

Delaware’s tourism-dependent coastal towns are braced for a major loss of revenue as what would normally be tourist season begins. Businesses in Delaware began reopening May 8 with some extra social distancing precautions in place.

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#22. Tennessee

- Total WalletHub score: 47.7
- Dependency on travel and tourism industry rank: #20
- Aggressiveness against coronavirus rank: #33

Tennessee’s iconic city of Nashville has missed out on an estimate of hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue due to the cancellation of 835 conventions. The city’s mayor, John Cooper, in early May announced Nashville’s famous Fourth of July fireworks display would likely be canceled.

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#21. Washington

- Total WalletHub score: 47.9
- Dependency on travel and tourism industry rank: #22
- Aggressiveness against coronavirus rank: #17

In an effort to mitigate tourism losses from COVID-19, the Washington Tourism Alliance in April rolled out a “buy now, play later” campaign. The initiative encourages locals and tourists to buy gift cards for future use at tourist hot spots around the state.

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#20. Idaho

- Total WalletHub score: 48.4
- Dependency on travel and tourism industry rank: #19
- Aggressiveness against coronavirus rank: #29

Blain County, Idaho, home to the popular ski destination Sun Valley, as of April 3 had one of the highest COVID-19 infection rates in the country. Tourism recovery at the ski resort is expected to take 24 months.

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#19. Arizona

- Total WalletHub score: 49.3
- Dependency on travel and tourism industry rank: #18
- Aggressiveness against coronavirus rank: #24

The Arizona Lodging and Tourism Association forecast a first-quarter loss of $2 billion in tourism revenue throughout the state. More than 40% of the 300,000-plus Arizonans who work in the hotel and resort industry have lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 crisis.

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#18. Colorado

- Total WalletHub score: 52.5
- Dependency on travel and tourism industry rank: #13
- Aggressiveness against coronavirus rank: #36

Around 40% of jobs in Colorado’s mountain counties come from tourism. Many of those areas have seen increases in unemployment during the pandemic, that affect about 12% of the state's workers.

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#17. Maryland

- Total WalletHub score: 52.9
- Dependency on travel and tourism industry rank: #21
- Aggressiveness against coronavirus rank: #6

With its tourism industry shut down during the pandemic, Maryland’s six casinos saw revenue fall by almost $95 million during the month of March. The downturn in the gaming industry is having a ripple effect on related tourism businesses, such as restaurants and hotels.

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#16. New Mexico

- Total WalletHub score: 53.5
- Dependency on travel and tourism industry rank: #14
- Aggressiveness against coronavirus rank: #12

Hotel occupancy rates in New Mexico have fallen significantly during the pandemic. Only 28% of hotel rooms across the state were occupied in late March, a drop of about 60% from the same week a year earlier.

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#15. Wyoming

- Total WalletHub score: 54.5
- Dependency on travel and tourism industry rank: #9
- Aggressiveness against coronavirus rank: #45

Wyoming is preparing for a projected $1 million loss in revenue from lodging taxes in Natrona County by the end of 2021 due to the coronavirus. The state has canceled many traveler-friendly events, including concerts and athletic tournaments.

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#14. Alaska

- Total WalletHub score: 55.2
- Dependency on travel and tourism industry rank: #17
- Aggressiveness against coronavirus rank: #1

The cancellation of at least 360 cruises is gutting the Alaska tourism industry during the pandemic. Without the arrival of ships, around 700,000 fewer tourists will visit the state.

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#13. Connecticut

- Total WalletHub score: 55.3
- Dependency on travel and tourism industry rank: #12
- Aggressiveness against coronavirus rank: #21

Tourism brings in as much as $15.5 billion in Connecticut. But with the COVID-19 crisis, it’s struggling. In Downtown Mystic, for example, the Whaler’s Inn closed for the first time in six decades. Around 9 in 10 people who stay at the inn are tourists.

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#12. Rhode Island

- Total WalletHub score: 56.6
- Dependency on travel and tourism industry rank: #16
- Aggressiveness against coronavirus rank: #3

COVID-19 forced Rhode Island to cancel many of its summer festivals and events, including the Newport Folk Festival and Newport Jazz Festival. The festivals draw many tourists and make a $58.1 million annual impact on the state’s economy.

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#11. Maine

- Total WalletHub score: 56.7
- Dependency on travel and tourism industry rank: #15
- Aggressiveness against coronavirus rank: #8

Revenue from hospitality in Maine has plummeted to less than 10% of what it was at the same time in 2019. Hospitality, Maine’s second-largest industry, was responsible for $8 billion in revenue in 2019.

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#10. California

- Total WalletHub score: 56.9
- Dependency on travel and tourism industry rank: #10
- Aggressiveness against coronavirus rank: #23

More than half the people who worked in tourism in 2019 were expected to lose their jobs this year, according to a study from by Tourism Economics. Visitor spending is expected to drop by $72.1 billion.

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#9. New York

- Total WalletHub score: 59.3
- Dependency on travel and tourism industry rank: #8
- Aggressiveness against coronavirus rank: #14

New York City is projected to lose up to 500,000 jobs related to the tourism sector.The loss of ticket revenue from Broadway shows alone (often at the top of visitors’ bucket lists) will likely cost the Big Apple more than $100 million.

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#8. Washington D.C.

- Total WalletHub score: 59.5
- Dependency on travel and tourism industry rank: #7
- Aggressiveness against coronavirus rank: #15

As of April 30, more than half of Washington D.C.’s hotel rooms were temporarily closed during the pandemic. The nation’s capital also lost at least $86.5 million after 11 large conventions, scheduled to be held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, were canceled.

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#7. New Hampshire

- Total WalletHub score: 59.6
- Dependency on travel and tourism industry rank: #6
- Aggressiveness against coronavirus rank: #18

Tourism is usually New Hampshire’s top-earning sector. COVID-19 has hurt the industry, and communities that are heavily dependent upon visitors are experiencing 20% unemployment rates. The state is planning ways to safely reopen attractions to tourists.

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#6. Florida

- Total WalletHub score: 60.8
- Dependency on travel and tourism industry rank: #4
- Aggressiveness against coronavirus rank: #29

Members of the Orange County Economic Recovery Task Force in Florida at the end of April were considering various ways to mitigate tourism losses, including reopening theme parks at 50% capacity, employing mandatory temperature checks for workers, and abiding by thorough cleaning procedures. Disney World, Universal StudiosSeaWorld, and other tourist attractions have been closed during the COVID-19 crisis.

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#5. Massachusetts

- Total WalletHub score: 61.4
- Dependency on travel and tourism industry rank: #11
- Aggressiveness against coronavirus rank: #4

Tourism in Central Massachusetts, home to the EcoTarium, Hanover Theatre, and Tower Hill Botanic Garden, is projected to see $200 million in losses as travelers stay home, according to data work by Oxford Economics. More than 1,200 people who work in the regional tourism industry are forecast to lose their jobs.

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#4. Vermont

- Total WalletHub score: 64.6
- Dependency on travel and tourism industry rank: #5
- Aggressiveness against coronavirus rank: #5

Vermont Legislature economist Tom Kavet in late April projected a $430 million drop in revenue in the next fiscal year, largely driven by a loss in travel and tourism. The state typically sees visits from almost 13 million travelers each year.

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#3. Nevada

- Total WalletHub score: 66.9
- Dependency on travel and tourism industry rank: #2
- Aggressiveness against coronavirus rank: #41

Nevada’s main tourist hot spot, Las Vegas, has projected job losses from the pandemic to double those lost in the 2007-2009 recession. Tourism in the area may take years to recover.

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#2. Montana

- Total WalletHub score: 67.8
- Dependency on travel and tourism industry rank: #3
- Aggressiveness against coronavirus rank: #10

Almost two-thirds of hotels, lodges, and outfitters in Montana had zero bookings from tourists in April, according to the UM Institute for Tourism and Recreation. A full 66% of businesses in the state's tourism industry have furloughed some of their workers.

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#1. Hawaii

- Total WalletHub score: 81.4
- Dependency on travel and tourism industry rank: #1
- Aggressiveness against coronavirus rank: #2

Visitor spending in Hawaii dropped in March by more than 50%, as foreign and out-of-state tourists hunkered down at home. Around 435,000 people arrived in Hawaii that month, far less than the 939,000 visitors that traveled to the tropical destination in March 2019.

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