International Travel on the Decline, U.S. Travel Warns

Two reports from the U.S. Travel Association show that inbound travel to the U.S. is dropping. The organization is calling for a renewal of funding for Brand USA to help reverse the trend.

The latest data from a key travel industry group paints a worrisome picture for the months ahead—particularly when it comes to international travel.

Last week, the U.S. Travel Association revealed in its Travel Trends Index that June was the worst month for travel to and within the U.S. since September 2018 and that international travel had contracted over a six-month period for the first time since 2015. While domestic leisure travel continued to grow, international inbound travel dragged down the overall numbers.

The index uses a 100-point scale. A rating above 50 signifies growth. If the index hovers around 50, the industry is stagnant, and if it falls below 50, the industry is contracting. The overall index in June was 51.2, and it is forecast to fall to 50.9 percent six months from now; for international travel alone, June’s index was 49.6, with a six-month forecast of 49.9.

These trends already are having an effect, U.S Travel says, with travel jobs falling in July despite an otherwise strong job market.

In a separate forecast, U.S. Travel projects the U.S. share of international travel will fall below 11 percent by 2022, compared with 13 percent in 2016. (It hit 11.7 percent in 2018, and is forecast to fall to 11.3 percent this year.)  The association says several issues— including the dollar’s overall strength, the escalating trade war, and increased competition for global travel—have contributed to the decline.

In a news release, Tori Barnes, executive vice president of public affairs and policy for U.S. Travel, said refunding Brand USA, a public-private partnership that promotes international travel into the United States, is critical to reverse the trend.

“Everyone is wondering how much longer the U.S. economic expansion can go on, and shoring up our international travel market share would be a great way to help it continue,” Barnes stated, adding that she hopes the forecast “shows Congress the urgency of getting that done this year.”

Likewise, last fall, the Visit U.S. Coalition—which includes U.S. Travel, along with ASAE and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, among others—urged Congress to reauthorize Brand USA, which lost its funding last year.

“Without this funding, private-sector partners of Brand USA are limited, and in some cases deterred, from marketing to highly valued international travelers,” the coalition wrote.

The legislative picture for Brand USA is brightening—a bill reauthorizing the program passed a key Senate committee last month—but it is not out of the woods yet. The Brand USA Extension Act, which still needs a full Senate vote along with corresponding House legislation, would reauthorize the program through 2027.

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Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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