WASHINGTON—Travel to and within the U.S. grew 3.2% year-over-year in July, according to the U.S. Travel Association’s latest Travel Trends Index (TTI)—a slight rebound from June’s nine-month low.
International inbound travel contracted once again in July, falling by 1.2%. The decline follows a disappointing June performance, which saw the sector’s six-month trend fall below zero for the first time since September 2015. The Leading Travel Index (LTI), the predictive component of the TTI, projects international inbound travel growth will remain negative over the next six months (-0.4%).
The worrying outlook for international inbound travel is consistent with U.S. Travel’s forecast, which projects America’s share of the global long-haul travel market will fall from its current 11.7% to below 10.9% by 2022, despite a projected annual increase in volume of inbound visitors to the United States. Factors contributing to the market-share slide include the continued strength of the U.S. dollar, prolonged and rising trade tensions and stiff competition from rivals for tourism business.
Policy changes, such as the long-term reauthorization of the Brand USA destination marketing organization, expanding the Visa Waiver Program to include more qualified countries, and improving customs wait times can help reverse the decline, according to the organization.
“With Congress returning to work next week, Brand USA’s long-term reauthorization must be a top priority,” said U.S. Travel SVP of Research David Huether. “Brand USA’s efforts to promote America to visitors abroad have kept the decline in international inbound visitation from being worse, and it is crucial that Congress works quickly to pass legislation to reauthorize the program and ensure the continued promotion of the U.S. in the competitive global travel market.”
The TTI’s bright spot is domestic travel’s 3.8% expansion, which kept travel’s overall growth afloat. Domestic leisure travel surpassed its six-month average, increasing a robust 4.2%. Domestic business travel recovered from its -0.2% decline in June, rallying with 2.2% July growth.
“The solid performance of the domestic leisure and business segments—which together account for 86% of the travel economy in the U.S.—have kept the travel expansion on track through the first seven months of 2019 and have acted as a bulwark against the stagnant state of international inbound travel,” said Huether.
The LTI projects domestic travel as a whole will expand 2% through January 2020.
The TTI is prepared for U.S. Travel by the research firm Oxford Economics. The TTI is based on public- and private-sector source data which are subject to revision by the source agency. The TTI draws from advance search and bookings data from ADARA and nSight; airline bookings data from the Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC); IATA, OAG and other tabulations of international inbound travel to the U.S.; and hotel room demand data from STR.