Latest NTTO Figures not Encouraging: The collapse of the UK-based tour operator Thomas Cook on September 23, 2019 generated scores of side stories about the legacy of the company, and it also helped to put the finishing touch on an already cloudy picture for the inbound tourism industry’s outlook for 2019. Here are some of the data-driven reasons why:
—The outlook was already less-than-bright early last month when the U.S. Travel Association’s Travel Trends Index told us that international inbound travel had contracted once again in July, falling by 1.2 percent. That decline followed a disappointing June performance which saw the sector’s six-month trend fall below zero for the first time since September 2015. Also, the Leading Travel Index (LTI), the predictive component of the TTI, projected that international inbound travel growth will remain negative over the next six months (-0.4 percent).
—This was before the shutdown of Thomas Cook, which regularly sent more than 50,000 visitors a year to the United States, according to its entry in the profiles of international tour operators that delegates to US Travel’s IPW trade show. Meanwhile, Mabrian Technologies, a travel Intelligence company, said its study of the data showed that Thomas Cook had more than 330,000 seats set aside for travel to the United States from Sept. 1, 2019 through Aug. 21, 2020. How many of those seats will be replaced with seats on other carriers?
—The latest arrivals numbers posted late last week by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Travel and Tourism Office (NTTO) show that overseas arrivals to the U.S. increased by only 0.8 percent for the month of August (vs. the same month in 2018) and was up 1.8 percent, year-to-date, for 2019 vs. the same period in 2018. And these data did not take into consideration, of course, the demise of Thomas Cook.
—Finally, while the 1.8 percent increase so far this year may seem encouraging, the industry is also facing the prospect of a second consecutive year of decline from China. And year-to-date arrivals totals from the key markets of South Korea and Brazil are down. German arrivals are up by less than one percent.