Though the recent passing of the Travel Promotion Act in both the Senate and the House of Representatives is good news for the U.S tourism industry, it appears there is still plenty of room for improvement. The U.S. Department of Commerce announced that international visitors spent an estimated $9.9 billion on travel to, and tourism-related activities within, the United States during the month of August— an increase of 1 percent over July 2009. However, when compared to the same period last year, international visitor spending is down more than 21 percent for the month.
From January through August, travel and tourism-related exports totaled $79.4 billion, down more than 17 percent ($16.4 billion) when compared to 2008. The U.S. travel and tourism industry generated a $13.5 billion trade surplus (i.e., exports minus imports) during the first eight months, which is nearly $7.1 billion less favorable than the same period last year. The recent downturn in U.S. travel and tourism exports, beginning in the closing months of 2008, interrupted more than 60 consecutive months of positive growth.
Purchases of travel and tourism-related goods and services (i.e. food, lodging, recreation, gifts, entertainment, local and transportation) by international visitors traveling in the U.S. totaled $7.8 billion for the month, a decrease of more than 20 percent in comparison with last year. Fares received by U.S. carriers (and U.S. vessel operators) from international visitors decreased nearly 25 percent to $2.1 billion for the month, a decrease of more than $700 million when compared to August 2008.
August 2009 marks the 10th straight month in which U.S. travel and tourism-related exports were lower when compared to the same period of the previous year, having declined in November 2008 (-4 percent), December 2008 (-2 percent), January 2009 (-6 percent), February 2009 (-10 percent), March 2009 (-18 percent), April 2009 (-14 percent), May 2009 (-23 percent), June 2009 (-22 percent), July (-22 percent), and now August 2009 (-21 percent).
International visitors are not the only ones who have curtailed their spending; in fact, year-to-date travel and tourism-related imports—spending by Americans abroad— totaled $65.9 billion, down more than 12 percent ($9.3 billion) when compared to last year.