A shrinking slice of the cake – US share of international travel will continue to drop through 2022

The US global long haul travel market share has been on a four year slide that is continuing through 2022, according to the latest forecast from the US Travel Association. The decline is resulting in spillover effects in travel spend and jobs.

The country’s share peaked at 13.7% in 2013, and has steadily decreased to 11.7% in 2018. The forecast for 2019 is a further drop to 11.3% in 2019 falling shares through 2021 to 10.9%.

“The decline in market share represents losses to the US economy of 14 million international visitors, USD59 billion in international traveller spending, and 120,000 US jobs,” the association stated. “Between now and 2022, that would mean a further economic hit of 41 million visitors, USD180 billion in international traveller spending and 266,000 jobs.”

The association concluded that US travel economists are pointing to several factors for the decline in international inbound travel, “foremost among them the continued, historic strength of the US dollar”. Other elements that are diminishing the US’ international global travel share include trade tensions, and competition from rivals for international tourism dollars.

In mid-Jul-2019, the association stated US inbound travel only grew +1.2% in May, and over the next six months its leading travel indicator showed that international travel growth would slow to +0.4%.

The forecast highlights the vital role industry stakeholders together play in maximising sustainable returns from the travel and tourism sector. Brand USA, the organisation tasked with promoting the US globally as a travel destination has had a particularly strong involvement.

The company was authorised by Congress a decade ago as an answer to the aggressive tourism marketing campaigns by countries that compete with the US for travel market share. A study released earlier this year shows that Brand USA’s work brought in 6.6 million incremental international visitors to the US between 2013 and 2018, at a return-on-investment of USD28 in visitor spending for every USD1 the agency spent on marketing.

It is funded by a small fee on certain international visitors to the US, plus contributions from the private sector, but that funding mechanism is currently set to expire soon and up for renewal via bills that have been introduced in both the House and Senate. The US Travel Association says the latest market share data makes passing that legislation more crucial than ever.

“Reclaiming our market share is not just a matter of pride – it is economically vital, and can help sustain our GDP expansion when we’re seeing some other headwinds on the horizon,” says Tori Barnes, executive vice president of public affairs and policy at the US Travel Association. “Recapturing our market share should, by all rights, be a national priority.”