Travel to and within the United States grew 2.2% year-over-year in September, according to the U.S. Travel Association’s latest Travel Trends Index (TTI), marking the industry’s 117th straight month of growth.
But areas of concern remain. International inbound travel contracted 0.4% in September, marking the fifth month in negative territory in 2019. The Leading Travel Index (LTI), the predictive element of the TTI, projects inbound travel volume will decline 0.6% 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.
“There is a global travel boom, but too many of those visitor dollars are going to places other than the U.S., which is leaving jobs, exports and economic growth on the table,” said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow. “Opportunities are at hand to create an environment for growth, and we can and should do everything possible to get there.”
Though there are numerous factors, Dow said, there is one where we need to take immediate action: renew Brand USA, the destination marketing organization tasked with promoting travel to the United States.
As U.S. Travel Executive Vice President of Public Affairs and Policy Tori Barnes told a House subcommittee last week, Brand USA keeps the U.S. competitive in the global travel market and prevents the U.S. slide in global travel market share from being worse. U.S. Travel is hopeful that the House Energy and Commerce Committee will further consider the Brand USA reauthorization bill this month—after which the challenge will be to find time on the crowded legislative schedule for a full House vote.
“There is significant bipartisan support for Brand USA, and committees in both the House and Senate are doing their job to advance the bill,” Dow said. “The next step is to persuade leadership in both chambers that in reality, this is something that needs to get done this year to avoid real economic consequences.”
Once again, the bright spot of the TTI was the strength of domestic travel: the segment as a whole expanded 2.4% in September, buoyed by domestic leisure travel’s 3.0% growth.
While vacation intentions remain elevated, there may be trouble ahead for both the business and leisure sectors of domestic travel as forward-looking bookings and search data indicate uncertainty on the horizon. The LTI projects domestic travel growth will slow to 1.4% in the coming six months.
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.
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