A recent report by the US Travel Association cited a continuing drop in inbound tourism with a projection that this trend will continue until at least 2022.
Further, in a new statistical release of September numbers, the National Travel and Tourism Office showed September 2019 arrivals down 0.5% from September 2018. Five of the top seven country sources showed declines with the United Kingdom, China, Germany, Brazil, and Australia all down and only Japan and South Korea showing growth.
Source number two, Japan, had the best news at 13.8% growth, but source number three, China, was down 12.4%.
The NTTO does not report world market share numbers.
The statistical dip of 0.8% in June 2019 was determined to be the worst performance since April 2016 and an earlier confirmation of this longer-term trend. Most significantly, US market share of world tourism had dropped from a high of 13.7% in 2015 to 11.7% in August, according to Oxford Economics. this is a 14.6% drop in global market share for the United States in just four years. A further description of this precipitous drop indicates that it resulted in a US economic loss of 14 million visitors, $59 billion in travel spending, and 120,000 industry related US jobs.
Oxford Economics is projecting a further loss to 10.9% of global market share or a total percentage drop from 2015 of 20.4%, meaning 41 million fewer visitors, $180 billion less in travel expenditures, and 266,000 fewer jobs. The new NTTO report confirms the trend.
Dave Huether, senior vice president at US Travel, said that the loss of jobs from international visitor spending would be spread across lodging, retail, recreation, food services, and transportation.
Yan Zhang, who reported on this in USA Today in August, identified the strong dollar, trade tensions, the stance against immigration by the Trump administration, and gun violence as the main culprits for the downturn.
The US dollar is up against a basket of currencies by 9.5%, making travel to America more expensive, according again to US Travel.
Trade tensions, especially with China, has seen a drop of 5.7% in inbound Chinese visitors from 2017, the first such drop in 15 years, according to the National Travel and Tourism Office. This is particularly troubling as Chinese visitors spend approximately $7,000 per trip, 50% higher than other inbound visitors.
No growth from China is expected in 2019 with current trends, especially with US visas for Chinese visitors becoming harder to get according to anecdotal information from members. China itself has compounded this trend by issuing a US travel warning citing gun violence.
Between gun violence and the pronounced political statements against immigration, the US is perceived to be less welcoming, particularly to Mexicans and Muslims.
Recent gun violence in various American states and cities has resulted in travel warnings from Japan, Venezuela, Uruguay, France, New Zealand, Germany, and, as cited, China. Mass shootings get high visibility reporting around the world.
How should IITA and its members react? As always, it is imperative to aggressively support the reauthorization of Brand USA, keep track of statistical inbound travel trends to share with Congress and the administration, and report the impact of all of these trends and share those reports with friends on both Capitol Hill and the industry.
By Steve Richer, DC Correspondent