Travel to and within the United States rose 2.4 percent in December 2019 compared to the year before, according to the latest Travel Trends Index from the U.S. Travel Association. This marks the industry's 10th consecutive year of expansion.
The association predicts that United States travel will continue to grow 1.4 percent year-over-year through June, citing a softer growth in domestic leisure travel and continued weakness in international inbound travel as top contributing factors for a moderate growth pace.
Domestic leisure travel increased 2.8 percent in December (down from the six-month trend of 3.6 percent). Meanwhile, domestic business travel grew 2 percent (up from the six-month trend of 0.8 percent).
International inbound rose slightly (0.8 percent), ending a three-month decline. Despite this, the Travel Trends Index forecasts that international travel will contract 0.2 percent through June, due to the strength of the U.S. dollar, ongoing trade tensions and policy uncertainties.
In a statement, U.S. Travel Association president and CEO Roger Dow praised Congress for reauthorizing Brand USA in late December. The nation's official tourism marketing organization now has funding secured through 2027, which could help combat the ongoing decline of international inbound travel.
"Congress took an important step in December to reverse the slide in international inbound travel by reauthorizing the Brand USA destination marketing program," said Dow. "International visitor spending is vital to lowering the trade deficit, and a prolonged slide in that segment’s growth could have serious implications for the overall health of the American economy."
The next Travel Trends Index, which will be released next month and reflect travel in January, is expected to showcase some early effects of the coronavirus on the travel industry. The virus has already infected more than 43,000 people -- most of them in China but with confirmed cases in 24 countries -- and has been declared a global health emergency.