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Latin America outperforms North America in tourism growth


With five percent more international trips, outbound travel from the Americas has shown solid growth in 2018 with a plus of 5 percent. In contrast to the previous year, where North American growth exceeded Latin America, the first eight months of 2018 reflected the contrary. While North American outbound travel increased by four percent, Latin America was twice as strong with eight percent more international trips. Looking at 2019, the latest results of the World Travel Monitor point to an uplift due to stronger growth in North America.

Europe remains growth driver for North American outbound travel

Overall, North America showed solid increases with a plus of four percent in international travel during the first eight months of this year, which was in line with the forecasts of last year’s World Travel Monitor. Despite lower growth rates compared to last year, Europe remained a growth driver. Trips by North Americas to Europe increased by eight percent during the first eight months of 2018. Among the destinations, benefiting most from these increases were Spain and Italy, while trips to the UK stagnated. Trips to Asia grew solidly with a plus of five percent, while inner-American travel rose by three percent.

The strong growth of North American outbound travel was evenly distributed between holidays, visits to friends and relatives (VFRs) as well as business trips. While business trips underperformed worldwide, North America showed opposing developments with a six percent increase. However, as in other parts of world, this growth was due to an increase of promotable business trips (MICE), while traditional business trips continued on a downward trend.

Within the holiday segment, growth distribution was also quite evenly distributed. Cruises reported the strongest increase of eight percent. Tour holidays increased by five percent, city trips by fourper cent and sun & beach holidays by three percent. Overall, the average length of outbound trips by North Americans decreased slightly, while spending was one per ent higher.

Looking ahead, an uplift is expected for North American outbound travel in 2019, with IPK’s Travel Confidence Index forecasting eight percent growth for next year.

Inner-regional travel booming in Latin America

Latin America outperformed North America during the first eight months of the year with eight percent more international trips. One of the key influencing factors was high growth in the Mexican outbound travel market, which declined last year but recovered strongly between January and August. The main reason for this turnaround was an increase in visits to the US, which dropped in 2017 but picked up strongly again.

Compared to North America, where trips to Europe remained the growth driver, Latin Americans mainly headed to destinations within the Americas. According to World Travel Monitor figures, inner-regional travel by Latin Americans increased by 13 percent. Europe reported solid growth rates of five percent, while Asia received two percent more visitors from Latin America.

Holidays were the key contributing factor for the growth of outbound trips by Latin Americans, with an increase of ten percent. Business trips also grew strongly, rising by nine percent. The reason for this were promotable business trips (with a plus of 12 percent), and not traditional business trips (down one percent). Visits to friends and relatives (VFR) recovered with a plus of three percent compared to the declines during the same period last year. “This is due to increases of Mexican outbound trips, which tend to have a higher share of VFR.” explained Juan Alberto García, consultant at IPK International.

Looking at the different holiday types, city trips grew strongly in the Latin American market and gained 18 percent. Further strong increases were recorded for sun & beach holidays with a plus of 15 percent, following declines during the same period last year. Cruises also reported similar growth rates, although this segment only accounts for a very small share of the total holiday market. Tour holidays, while recovering worldwide, were below average in the Latin American market with a growth rate of 3 percent. In terms of spending, Latin Americans spent slightly less, while the average length of stay increased by three percent.

With Latin America registering strong growth in the first eight months of the year, the outlook for 2019 is also very positive. According to the IPK Travel Confidence Index, Latin American outbound travel is expected to grow by 8 percent next year.

Most American destinations recorded more visitors

According to World Travel Monitor figures, the Americas received about three pe cent more international visitors overall between January and August 2018. In North America, the US, which declined last year, now seems to be recovering with seven percent more international visitors. Canada on the other hand more or less stagnated in the first eight months of the year. Mexico recorded a plus of around two percent, while another destination with a strong growth was Chile, with eight percent more international visitors.

”Cruises and city tours are the main growth drivers of the travel markets in the Americas. Outbound travel from South America to the US has displayed unusually high growth. This may be proof that, despite President Trump’s best efforts, he has as yet been unable to make the country any less attractive”, said Martin Buck, Senior Vice President, Travel & Logistics, Messe Berlin.

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About the author

Chief Assignment Editor

Chief Assignment editor is OlegSziakov