SANTA CRUZ, Calif. — While some workers are taking time off to travel, others are leaving their vacation days unused, according to the U.S. Travel Association.

American workers left a record 768 million vacation days unused last year, according to a study conducted by the U.S. Travel Association, Oxford Economics and Ipsos. Vacation data was not available on a county and state level, according to Cathy Reynolds, manager of media relations and lead manager of IPW Press Operations for the U.S. Travel Association.

Of these unused days, 236 million were forfeited completely, which is equal to $65.5 billion of lost benefits, according to the study. While more vacation days are going unused, American workers are taking more days of paid time off, an average of 17.4 days in 2018 compared to 17.2 days in 2017. Paid time off includes both vacation and personal days provided by an employer, not including sick pay, according to Reynolds. Vacation is simply vacation, she said.

“When I see how many vacation days went unused, I don’t just see a number: I see 768 million missed opportunities to recharge, experience something new and connect with family and friends,” said Roger Dow, U.S. Travel Association president and CEO, in the press release. “However, it’s an unfortunate truth that cost is the top barrier to travel. Despite the financial challenges of traveling, there are affordable alternatives to explore America, whether it’s a drive up the coast or a day trip to a neighboring town.”

The total number of unused days climbed 9% in 2018 because the number of earned days is increasing faster than paid time off days used, according to the study press release. The number of paid time off days used has been slowly rising since 2014.

“Americans are earning more paid time off but they aren’t using it as fast as they are earning it so resulting in more unused time off,” the U.S. Travel Association research team said.+

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If Americans used their days off to travel, the economic opportunity for the travel industry, as well as the U.S. as a whole, amounts to $151.5 billion in additional travel spending, according to the U.S. Travel Association.

While vacation days are left unused, tourism spending is still on the rise nationally.

U.S. domestic travel increased 1.9% in 2018 to a total of 2.3 billion person-trips, or an overnight trip to places at least 50 miles from home, according to the U.S. Travel and Tourism Overview. Leisure travelers, both domestic and international, spent a total of $762 billion in 2018, up 6.1% from 2017.

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