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World Tourism is Leaving the US Behind

Research from national and international tourism bodies show people are traveling more than ever – but not to the US

While people around the globe are traveling more than ever, tourism to the US is taking a dive, according to reports from the World Tourism Organization and the US Travel Association. The number of international tourist arrivals around the world reached 1.4 billion last year — a 6 percent increase and a bar reached two years ahead of forecasts. The organization predicted that number would grow by an additional 3 or 4 percent this year.

The US, however, is not seeing a similar rosy picture on the tourism horizon. Rather, US market share of world tourism has been dropping steadily in light of regular gun massacre incidents, economic affronts aimed at China, continued strength of the dollar and hostile moves in diplomatic circles.

International inbound travel to the US contracted once again in July, falling by 1.2 percent. 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 Association’s Travel Trend Index (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 percent to below 10.9 percent by 2022, despite a projected annual increase in volume of inbound visitors to the United States.

The USTA believes that 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.

“The solid performance of the domestic leisure and business segments, which together account for 86% of the travel economy in the US, 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 U.S. Travel Senior Vice President of Research David Huether.

The TTI’s bright spot is domestic travel’s 3.8 percent expansion, which kept travel’s overall growth afloat. Domestic leisure travel surpassed its six-month average, increasing a robust 4.2 percent. Domestic business travel recovered from its -0.2 percent decline in June, rallying with 2.2 percent July growth.

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.