Inbound US travel continued to show signs of sluggishness in Mar-2019, but international scheduled traffic could provide a positive spark in Apr-2019

International inbound travel to the US tumbled year-on-year in March, likely driven by the timing of the Easter holiday, which fell in April of this year. A report from the US Travel Association finds international inbound travel fell a notable -5.4% in Mar-2019, compared with a -0.2% drop in Feb-2019.

Although global economic activity is expected to improve, yet remain soft in 2H2019, predictions indicate international inbound travel will be positive, but at a slower pace. “The outlook for international inbound travel remains lacklustre, suggesting that a further loss of global market share is in the cards for the US in 2019,” says David Huether, senior vice president for research at the US Travel Association.

“Acting on certain legislative initiatives, such as the long-term reauthorisation of Brand USA and the enhancement and expansion of the Visa Waiver Program to include more qualified countries, can help reverse this trend,” he adds.

Meanwhile, US domestic travel trends remain strong. Domestic leisure grew traffic+3.2% in March and business travel notched up +2%.  But the association warned that “continued moderation in consumer spending, vacation intentions and business investment is expected to cause both segments of domestic travel to cool in the coming months”.

Meanwhile, provisional US Bureau of Transportation Statistics data estimates that US airlines saw a +2.1% year-on-year rise in scheduled traffic in Apr-2019 to 75.2 million, buoyed by stronger growth in international markets. Its data shows domestic traffic was up +1.9% in Apr-2019 to 65.8 million, while international traffic rose +3.7% to 9.4 million.

Capacity growth outperformed traffic growth in the domestic market for a -0.1 percentage point decline in loads to 84.2%, but international traffic growth was significantly higher than capacity growth leading to a +1.1 percentage point rise in loads to 80.7%.

However, this data is a statistical estimate and BTS will release a second estimate of US airlines’ Apr-2019 traffic on 13-Jun-2019, followed by a release of the full reported data on 11-Jul-2019.