Or, How NTTO Makes Market Sense Out of Overseas Travel Numbers: In the latest monthly quick release from the U.S. National Travel and Tourism Office (NTTO) of data having to do with the number of overseas visitors who came to the United States in the month of May 2021, one cannot read much beyond the first without gathering one’s senses and trying to create some context or understanding of the figures of the top seven countries on the list of the Top 15 for the month. Those seven countries had year-on-year increases for the month of May 2021 ranging from more than 53 thousand percent (Colombia) to 19 thousand percent (Dominican Republic).
It is easy to appreciate why almost no one, except for those people who are charged with gathering and analyzing the data for the U.S. Department of Commerce’s NTTO, have a true grasp on this endeavor. But, we at INBOUND are grateful that they do.
Mercifully, NTTO released a couple of simple, easy-to-read charts that explain the charts. First, the yellow bar chart below indicates that May 2021 was only 19.2 percent of the volume of May 2019 and that the overseas visitor recovery experienced a bit of growth in May 2021.
NTTO, aware that there are some in the industry whose job it is to know how to provide a context for the monthly data, releases information such as that above with tables (four of them are below), realizing that anyone who has been a part of the travel and tourism industry for the past year-and-a-half knows that every single major source market for overseas tourism to the USA has sent virtually no tourism traffic to our country because of closed borders and other restrictions on international travel were put into place in March and April of 2020. The bar chart below illustrates what has happened and, by assigning a base month for 2019 (it is the last year when there were no pandemic-related constraints on travel), we can better see and understand the pace of recovery for the industry.
In sum, we seem to be at the precipice of a weak—very weak—recovery. Undocumented, but usually accurate forecasts about such matters tell us, then, not to expect much of a recovery for 2021—especially since, as of this writing, there is negligible traffic from key overseas source markets (such as China, Japan, the UK, Germany and Australia, to name a few) and not much of a chance that the largest international source market for the USA, Canada, will recover in time to make a difference.
Also, to those who try to analyze the following data, be aware that some external factors are at work in the marketplace and don’t readily appear in standard analyses. For instance, when one looks at the performance of Colombia in the midst of the pandemic, one might ask: How is it that Colombia is sending more visitors to the United States than any other country in the world, as it did in May? It is possible that because of a very unstable in Colombia is causing people to leave the country for Florida, where there are about a million people with ties to the country?
Also, be aware of the fact that a 53 thousand percent increase in the travel market isn’t what it used to be.