It has been a year of ups and downs for international travel in the Americas.
In North America, the US outbound market is performing very well thanks to the strong dollar. But in South America, Brazilians have cut back on international travel this year amid the country’s economic and political crisis, although the picture could improve next year. Those were some of the results of the 24th World Travel Monitor® Forum in Pisa, Italy (November 3-4).
North America / USA
So far this year, the USA has been one of the world’s best-performing outbound markets with a 7 percent increase in outbound trips in the first eight months of 2016, according to World Travel Monitor® figures, while the overall North America outbound market grew by 6 percent. The key factor is the strong US dollar, which has increased the purchasing power of US travellers. As a result, major destination regions around the world are all profiting, with a 7 percent increase in US outbound trips within the Americas, a 6 percent rise to Asia and a 5 percent increase to Europe, according to World Travel Monitor® figures.
Holidays, which account for about two out of three international trips by US residents, grew by 8 percent over the first eight months of 2016. This included an 11 percent rise in sun & beach holidays, 9 percent increase in touring holidays and 7 percent rise in countryside holidays, although the number of city trips was stagnant.
“Taking all these figures together, it’s clearly a bumper year so far for the US outbound travel market,” said Dr. Martin Buck, Messe Berlin’s Senior Vice President Travel & Logistics. “Americans are going on more foreign holidays and exploring new destinations around the world.” The outlook for North American outbound travel remains very positive, with IPK’s Travel Confidence Index pointing to further growth of 6 percent in 2017.
These trends are also reflected in international arrivals figures from the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). International tourist arrivals in the Americas increased by 4 percent through September, consolidating the strong 6 percent growth registered in 2015, UNWTO figures showed. This is largely due to the strong US dollar, which is again encouraging more Americans to travel internationally this year.
South America (+7 percent) and Central America (+6 percent) led results between January and September 2016, followed by the Caribbean (+4 percent). In North America (+4 percent), Canada and Mexico in particular are benefiting from more US outbound travel but inbound travel to the USA has been held back by the strong dollar.
Commenting on the prospects for Destination USA following the election of Donald Trump as US president, Rolf Freitag, president and founder of IPK International, which produces the World Travel Monitor®, said: “It remains to be seen whether the election result will have any impact on international travel to the USA next year. In the past, the dollar exchange rate has been a more important factor influencing demand for travel to the USA than issues such as security or immigration policies.”
South America / Brazil
In South America, the economic and political crisis in Brazil has hit the travel industry heavily. Brazilian outbound travel crashed by 15 percent in the first eight months of 2016, according to World Travel Monitor® figures. There was a 16 percent slump in trips to destinations in the Americas, which Brazilians mostly visit on international trips, and a lower decline in intercontinental travel to Europe (-10 percent) and Asia (-5 percent). The overall number of foreign holidays plummeted by 20 percent, with a 23 percent fall in city trips and a 22 percent drop in touring holidays but a small 3 percent rise in sun & beach holidays.
However, the worst could be over. There are hopes of a small turnaround in 2017 with a 3 percent rise in outbound trips, based on IPK’s Travel Confidence Index, which might reflect an improving economic outlook for the country.
At the annual World Travel Monitor® Forum in Pisa, initiated at the invitation of consultancy IPK International and sponsored by ITB Berlin, around 50 tourism experts and academics from around the world present the latest figures and current trends in international tourism.