According to the US Travel Association‘s latest Travel Trends Index (TTI), travel to and within the United States grew 2.2% year over year in October 2019.
Domestic business travel declined 1.6% and underperformed its six-month trend (0.8%). U.S. Travel economists note that historically, business travel declines in advance of leisure heading into an economic slowdown—possibly a worrisome harbinger for the broader economy.
Fortunately, the strength of domestic leisure travel (4.4%) offset the struggling business travel segment and kept domestic travel overall in positive territory at 2.6% growth. But the report predicts that the pace of domestic leisure travel’s expansion is unlikely to sustain, with the Leading Travel Index (LTI)—the predictive element of the TTI—projecting leisure travel growth to slow to just 1.6% in the coming six months.
On average through April 2020, domestic business travel growth will remain relatively slow at just 1.2% year over year.
International inbound travel growth, which has oscillated between positive and negative territory in 2019, was flat in October. The LTI projects inbound travel volume will decline 0.8% over the next six months as prolonged trade tensions and the high value of the dollar continue to weigh on demand for travel to the U.S.
This is in line with U.S. Travel’s latest forecast, which projects a 1% decline in international visitation to the U.S. when final data is tallied for 2019. While global long-haul travel is projected to grow an average of 4.8% annually through 2023, the pace of U.S. growth is projected to be just half of that figure at 2.4%. This will further diminish the U.S. share of the total long-haul travel market to 10.4% by 2023—continuing the steady slide from its previous high of 13.7% in 2015.
“International inbound travel is critical to America’s economy and workforce, and its health should be a top priority,” said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow. “But the U.S. isn’t winning when it cedes market share to other countries with whom we directly compete for tourism dollars. Thankfully, there are legislative solutions that can reverse this decline—starting with the congressional re-authorization of the Brand USA tourism marketing program.”
There has been significant bipartisan support for Brand USA, and U.S. Travel and its industry partners will continue elevating to congressional leadership the need to include the program’s re-authorization in must-pass legislation this year.