At the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Travel and Tourism Office in Washington, D.C., the business of crunching numbers is a serious one for the one entity that provides the most extensive array of information and reports on overseas travel to the USA. This fact was reaffirmed during our recent meeting with Ron Erdmann, deputy director of NTTO (pictured at left with Inbound‘s publisher Jake Steinman), when we visited him as a part of our 2015 Listening Tour during which we spoke with receptive tour operators, travel industry suppliers DMOs and travel industry associations.
Our key takeaway from the meeting with Erdmann: Road bumps in timely reporting of the data. The collection and analysis of new arrivals numbers by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, has taken longer than expected. The problem is that they’ve been slow to make adjustments for nuances that will account properly result in higher quality data. For example, those arrivals traveling with work visas cannot be counted as visitors in the arrival numbers they report. It has taken longer to provide quality data for the destinations.
Markets such as Western Europe, Japan and Canada are mature and should be addressed differently. Major swings in arrivals will correspond with the cyclical nature of currency fluctuations; otherwise destination marketers should expect low single digit variations from year to year.
How do you market to a mature destination? Answer: You pursue repeaters by combining Tier 1 destinations with new destinations surrounding them that have interesting product. This may result in fewer overnights for the Tier 1 destinations, but it’s better than receiving nothing.
What happened to the timing with Chicago’s funding woes could not have been worse. The numbers for 2013 were down from the previous year, but if we look more deeply at the data the actual arrival were down for business travel, which the tourism division has no control over, while leisure travel was up which could have been used to argue to maintain the staff driving that end of the business.