The Big Picture is an Optimistic One, Says New Study: About the only downside to the latest forecast of international visitors to the United States thru the next five years (including 2020) by the Travel Market Insights (TMI) group is that it came out in early course of the coronavirus crisis and all the damage that it has wreaked upon international travel through the world. With that in mind, one can still take some solace in its big picture numbers.
They include the following:
• Record visits are projected for every year starting in 2020.
• Most concerns that negatively impacted inbound visits since the last peak in 2015 won’t completely dissipate, but the level of concern should soften.
• By 2024 nearly 91 million international visitors will travel to the U.S.
• By 2024 there will be 14 countries that will report over 1 million visitors. The international visitor export opportunity will continue to be diverse and larger than ever.
Country-by-Country Increases: TMI’s outlook roughly tracks with that of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Travel and Tourism Office data for the same period. TMI adds a twist here and there. Keeping in mind the corona virus caveat, here is how TMI sees the increases expected for the USA’s key source markets through 2024
“Headlines and growth are important but looking at the volume in 2024 provides a different ranking perspective,” says TMI’s Scott Johnson, noting that—as illustrated in the chart below—the UK will remain the top U.S. country for visits through 2024.
“Heads in Beds” tally shows a different impact: “’Heads in beds,’ as they say is a key indicator,” Johnson explains. Looking at arrivals from this perspective, he tells us that China is projected to book the most room-nights in 2024 primarily due to their length of stay in hotels. And the UK, a close second, has a slightly higher propensity to stay in hotels than the average overseas visitor (81.4 vs. 76.2 percent).
Overseas Countries Rank by Room Nights in 2024
Not All Visitors Come to See the Mainland: About one out of every ten international visitors to the United States each year do not visit the “Mainland” each year. (Mainland USA includes the states in North America, which excludes Hawaii, Guam, and other like parts of the United States.) However, this varies by country of origin and the popularity of Hawaii and Guam has an impact. The TMI forecast provides some interesting data on this point.
The chart above shows the total projected volume of visitors from each country in 2024 as well as the projected Mainland USA volume by the same countries.
—Two key visitor markets, Japan and South Korea, register a sizable shift in visits when reported as Mainland USA visits.
—Less than four in ten (38.4 percent) of the visitors from Japan visited Mainland USA in 2018, the lowest of any reported country.
—South Korea, at 51.7 percent, was the second lowest and Australia, at 79.0 percent, registered the third lowest percentage of all the countries to visit Mainland USA.
—The above points comprise an important consideration for these three significantly sized markets when ranking countries by visitor volume.
Tools for DMOs Researching International Markets: TMI’s Scott Johnson tells INBOUND that orecasting by destinations are more complex because of the diversity in geography, product, air lift/capacity by primary and feeder airports, product awareness and promotion, VFR (immigration), universities, and demand. Some key things to consider that are destination-specific indicators:
1. Purpose of Trip. Often visits are reported as business and leisure. This generally works for domestic visitors, however, international markets (depending on the destination) call for more depth in the breakdown by purpose of trip. For example, leisure combines vacation/holiday with visiting friends and family (VFR). If VFR is 30 percent of your leisure visitors and VFR is trending down or up to the U.S. it will impact your destination more or less than the U.S. overall. Every destination has a country-specific visitor mix that may include more vacation than VFR, or more business than convention etc. To enhance your destination’s forecast, it is important to know your destination’s visitor mix by country.
2. Ports of Entry. Today airlines are shifting routes rapidly. Other than a few unique destinations, most visitors use various entry points. Portmapping of your primary airports and feeder airports by country provides depth in projecting visits – especially in understanding shifts.
3. Hub Impact. Airports focus on maximizing the number of people paying to fly into and out of their airport and mostly report data in terms of people (passengers). Understanding your primary airport(s) goals and tracking the airport data by visitors along with the entry of people is vital. For example, a route from the UK to your destination could have a portion of passengers that are only using the airport as a gateway to pass on to another destination. Knowing if the people (passengers) visit your city/state overnight is key in understanding how the airport data reflects a shift in visits.
4. Residency is Key. There are over 200 types of visas people can use to enter the United States. Only 14 are used to consider a person a visitor. To be a visitor the person also must stay in the U.S. at least one night. In addition, to ensure marketing is targeted appropriately, a person entering the U.S. is also tracked by where they live, earn their income, and are influenced rather than their flight departure point. The same basic rules apply for a visitor to a destination. Once again, airport and airline data focus on people on the plane and landing at the airport, no matter their visa type, if they stay overnight, or by what country they live in. In addition, most international visitors travel to more than one city and state during their U.S. visit. Understanding your destination’s visitor patterns by residency builds understanding in projecting shifts to your destination
For more information on TMI’s forecast, contact Scott C. Johnson: [email protected].