International inbound travel to the United States continued to decline in September, marking the fifth consecutive month this year, according to the U.S. Travel Association's latest Travel Trends Index (TTI). Inbound travel volume dipped by 0.4 percent for the month, year-over-year, and is expected to decrease by another 0.6 percent over the next six months compared to the same period last year. Prolonged trade tensions and the high value of the dollar continue to dampen demand for travel to the United States.
"There is a global travel boom but too many of those visitor dollars are going to places other than the U.S., which is leaving jobs, exports and economic growth on the table," said U.S. Travel Association president and CEO Roger Dow. "Opportunities are at hand to create an environment for growth, and we can and should do everything possible to get there."
The bright spot of the TTI was the strength of domestic travel: The segment as a whole expanded 2.4 percent year-over-year in September, buoyed by domestic leisure travel's 3 percent growth. There might be trouble ahead for both the business and leisure sectors of domestic travel, however, as forward-looking bookings and search data indicate uncertainty. Domestic travel growth is expected to slow to 1.4 percent in the coming six months.
Dow emphasized the vital importance of renewing Brand USA, the destination marketing organization tasked with promoting travel to the United States. Brand USA keeps the country competitive in the global travel market and prevents the U.S. slide in global travel market share from becoming worse, noted Tori Barnes, U.S. Travel’s executive vice president of public affairs, in addressing a House subcommittee last week. U.S. Travel is hopeful that the House Energy and Commerce Committee will further consider the Brand USA reauthorization bill this month, after which the challenge will be to find time on the crowded legislative schedule for a full House vote.
"There is significant bipartisan support for Brand USA, and committees in both the House and Senate are doing their job to advance the bill," Dow said. "The next step is to persuade leadership in both chambers that in reality, this is something that needs to get done this year to avoid real economic consequences."
Find the full September Travel Tends Index report here.