Domestic Leisure Travel Surges as Business Travel Declines

Vacation - leisure travel

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Travel to and within the United States grew 2.2 percent year over year in October, according to the U.S. Travel Association’s latest Travel Trends Index (TTI).

Domestic business travel declined 1.6 percent and underperformed its six-month trend (0.8 percent). U.S. Travel economists note that historically, business travel declines in advance of leisure heading into an economic slowdown—possibly a harbinger for the broader economy.

However, the strength of domestic leisure travel (4.4 percent) offset the struggling business travel segment and kept domestic travel overall in positive territory at 2.6 percent growth. But the report predicts that the pace of domestic leisure travel’s expansion is unlikely to sustain, with the Leading Travel Index (LTI)—the predictive element of the TTI—projecting leisure travel growth to slow to 1.6 percent in the coming six months. On average through April 2020, domestic business travel growth will remain relatively slow at 1.2 percent year over year.

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International inbound travel growth, which has oscillated between positive and negative territory in 2019, was flat in October. The LTI projects inbound travel volume will decline 0.8 percent over the next six months as prolonged trade tensions and the high value of the dollar continue to weigh on demand for travel to the United States.

This is in line with U.S. Travel’s latest forecast, which projects a 1 percent decline in international visitation to the United States when final data is tallied for 2019. While global long-haul travel is projected to grow an average of 4.8 percent annually through 2023, the pace of U.S. growth is projected to be just half of that figure at 2.4 percent. This will further diminish the U.S. share of the total long-haul travel market to 10.4 percent by 2023—continuing the steady slide from its previous high of 13.7 percent in 2015.

“International inbound travel is critical to America’s economy and workforce, and its health should be a top priority,” said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow. “But the U.S. isn’t winning when it cedes market share to other countries with whom we directly compete for tourism dollars. Thankfully, there are legislative solutions that can reverse this decline—starting with the congressional reauthorization of the Brand USA tourism marketing program.”

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.