WASHINGTON — Travel to and within the U.S. grew 2.4 percent year-over-year in June, according to the U.S. Travel Association’s latest Travel Trends Index (TTI), making it travel’s worst performance since September 2018.
Most concerning is the 0.8 percent contraction of international inbound travel, which brought the sector’s six-month trend below zero for the first time since September 2015. The results of this drop in international inbound travel has resulted in a loss of travel employment in July, losing 2,500 jobs despite the relative strength of the overall job market.
The Leading Travel Index (LTI), the predictive component of the TTI, projects international inbound travel growth will remain just below zero over the next six months, settling around -0.2 percent.
This slide in international inbound travel is consistent with the forecast U.S. Travel released, which projected America’s share of the global long-haul travel market to fall from its current 11.7 percent to below 10.9 percent by 2022. U.S. Travel economists point to the continued strength of the U.S. dollar, prolonged and rising trade tensions, and stiff competition from rivals for tourism business as contributing factors to the decline.
Policy moves that could help reverse this troubling trend include the long-term reauthorization of Brand USA, expanding the Visa Waiver Program, and improving wait times for U.S. visa interviews as well as upon entry at U.S. Customs.
“While some factors cannot be controlled, the continued promotion of the U.S. in the competitive global travel market is more critical than ever,” said U.S. travel vice president of research David Huether. “Brand USA’s global efforts have prevented the decline in international inbound travel from being worse, and it is imperative that Congress works quickly to pass legislation to ensure the program’s reauthorization.”
Domestic business travel struggled as well, declining 0.2 percent after showing positive signs in May. Cooling business investment and ongoing trade conflicts weighed on domestic business travel and will continue to do so through the rest of 2019. The only bright spot in the TTI was the strength of domestic leisure travel, which expanded 3.8 percent—on par with that segment’s six-month trend.
The LTI projects overall U.S. travel volume will grow 1.8 percent through December, while domestic travel overall will grow 2.0 percent.