Those who held on to the notion that there were some prognosticators around who might project that the outlook for international inbound tourism to the United States would have a robust ending to 2019 will be disappointed with the latest snapshot and forecast contained the U.S. Travel Association’s Travel Trends Index (TTI) for September, which came out smack in the middle of things, day two, of last week’s World Travel Market in London.
Prior to the release of the TTI data INBOUND’s team of sources on site at London’s ExCel in East London had heard nothing from anyone that would suggest a change in the USA’s slightly downward glide path, and after the TTI release, the sound of nothing and no one speaking continued, especially as one read US Travel’s sober and official language:
“International inbound contracted in September (-0.4 percent), continuing the segment’s weakness. The Leading Travel Index (LTI) projects that inbound travel volume will decline about 0.6 percent over the next six months compared to the same period last year.”
While 0.4 percent and 0.6 percent are not large declines, they take on a different scale when one considers the size of the overall inbound tourism market—about 80 million visitors in 2018.
The year-on-year decrease for the month of September—minus 0.4 percent, which marked the fifth month in negative territory in 2019—is generally consistent with the direction of arrivals contained in a report from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Travel & Tourism Office (NTTO) cited in the previous issue of INBOUND, in which overseas arrivals (this excludes Mexico and Canada) to the U.S. declined by a full 5 percent, year-on-year.
What no one seems to want to accept, however, is the forecast that inbound tourism traffic will decline, however slight it might be, through the next six months, which comprise some of the peak travel booking months for key international markets.
Overall, though, the health of the travel and tourism business in the United States is good. The TTI’s Current Travel Index reading of 51.1 in September 2019 indicates that travel to or within the U.S. grew 2.2 percent in September 2019 compared to September 2018. The TTI’s predictive component, the Leisure Leading Travel Index, predicts that “travel growth will moderate through March 2020, a result of softer growth in domestic leisure travel and continued weakness in international inbound and domestic business travel.”
Here is what the key graphic in the latest (September) TTI looks like:
Source: Oxford Economics, U.S. Travel Association
Note: 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.