The day before IPW 2019 opened, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Travel and Tourism Office (NTTO) released a limited number of full years arrivals figures for 2018 inbound visitor traffic to the USA. Taken as a whole, the numbers were enough to cheer those who sell to some markets, but were otherwise troubling as all three key Asian markets—Japan, China and South Korea—registered declines in the number of travelers they sent to the United States.
Then, days later, NTTO released full year figures for the Top 50 international source markets, as well figures for total international and overseas figures. The total numbers were definitely more cheering than the Top 10 figures.
The Bottle Half Empty: For the first time since it became a source market of consequence for the U.S., China’s arrivals to the United States declined in 2018, falling nearly 6 percent. Arrivals also fell from the overseas markets of Japan, South Korea, Germany and Argentina. Traffic from neighboring Mexico also declined year-on-year vs. 2017.
The Bottle Half Full: Despite a year-long, continued drumbeat of news suggesting that outbound travel from the UK would be hurt by the effects of Brexit, travel from the UK—the largest overseas source market—to the United States was up by nearly 4 percent. And Brazil showed that it has nearly fully escaped the chokehold of the 2014-2016 recession that was so debilitating that it was known simple as “La Crise” (“The Crisis”), with year-on-year arrivals to the U.S. up by 15½ percent.
In sum, while not “very good” it was a “pretty good” year for inbound traffic to the U.S.
On the basis of INBOUND’s own conversations at IPW with U.S. traveler marketers, tour operators and those who follow the industry, the expectation is that arrivals should increase overall in 2019, although there will be some softness in in key markets, where growth will be flat to low. (See more on this subject elsewhere in INBOUND.)