Thanks to issues like immigration and trade, the threat of another government shutdown and predictions for another recession, the economic landscape in the United States right now is rife with uncertainty. But the travel industry continues to be a reliable bright spot, according to the U.S. Travel Association's latest Travel Trends Index.
According to the report, travel to and within the United States grew 3.6 percent in December 2018 compared with December 2017, marking the 108th consecutive month and the 10th consecutive year of travel-industry expansion.
Last year was especially strong for business travel, which had its best year since 2010, according to the TTI.
Unfortunately, travel's growth spurt might soon be stunted, warned the organization, which pointed to several areas of concern within the TTI. Although domestic leisure and business travel increased 4 percent and 2.6 percent, respectively -- continuing a six-month trend -- international inbound travel grew just 2.8 percent, which is down from 3.8 percent growth in November.
Going forward, U.S. Travel expects the number of international travelers coming in to the U.S. to continue to decline. Although the TTI predicts the U.S. travel industry as a whole will grow 2.4 percent through June 2019, this expansion will be tempered by even slower growth in international visitors of just 2 percent.
"A projected global economic cooling and persistent trade tensions will continue to threaten international inbound-travel growth," said David Huether, U.S. Travel's senior vice president for research, in a statement. "The expected softening of the dollar and the de-escalation of the U.S.-China trade conflict should be positives for the international segment, but the market will not be able to fully capitalize on those advantages without some help."
U.S. Travel's prescription: Congress must pass legislation that renews America's international travel promotion campaign, Brand USA, and expands the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), which streamlines entry of low-risk foreign visitors into the United States.