Although it continues to grow, travel to and within the United States has gone from a sprint to a crawl, according to the U.S. Travel Association, which this week released the results of its latest Travel Trends Index (TTI). The report showed 2.4 percent growth for the U.S. travel industry in June 2019 -- a modest increase from June 2018, but travel’s worst performance since last September.
Specifically, the TTI comprises two measures: the Current Travel Index (CTI), which measures current travel demand on a 100-point scale, and the Leading Travel Index (LTI), which predicts future travel demand. The CTI currently stands at 51.2, down from 51.8 in May, while the three-month LTI stands at 50.9, down from 51 in May. The six-month LTI, also 50.9, remains unchanged from the prior month.
The most concerning trend observed in June’s TTI, according to U.S. Travel, is an 0.8 percent contraction of international inbound travel, which is the first time since September 2015 that international inbound travel has experienced negative growth. U.S. Travel predicts that trend will stick -- with -0.2 percent growth -- for at least the next six months.
Another point of concern is domestic business travel, which fell by 0.2 percent in June compared to May, according to U.S. Travel, which said the TTI’s only bright spot was domestic leisure travel, which grew by 3.8 percent.
U.S. Travel economists -- who predict 1.8 percent growth in overall U.S. travel volume through December, and 2 percent growth in overall domestic travel during the same period -- said the industry’s struggles are the result of several factors. The decline in international inbound travel, for example, is due to “the continued strength of the U.S. dollar, prolonged and rising trade tensions, and stiff competition from rivals for tourism business,” U.S. Travel explained in a press release, in which it blamed the decline in domestic business travel on “cooling business investment and ongoing trade conflicts.”
The new data come on the heels of several other sobering revelations: Last week, U.S. Travel reported that travel employment fell by 2,500 in July, and that America’s share of the global long-haul travel market is projected to fall from 11.7 percent today to 10.9 percent by 2022.
The news isn’t all bad. U.S. Travel said negative trends can be reversed with pro-travel policies, including the long-term reauthorization of Brand USA, which funds travel promotion, and expanding the Visa Waiver Program, which reduces travel barriers.
“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.”