Travel recovery watch: International travel and spending up says Department of Commerce

Last May, 3.6 million non-stop air passengers left the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. Who cares? Well, the travel industry does, as this indicates an 8 percent year-over-year increase and the fifth month to show a gain since December 2009. The top outbound markets were Europe, the Caribbean, Asia and Mexico. Air travel was up for the Caribbean, Asia and Mexico, with Europe posting a decline of 1 percent year-over-year for the month of May. Departures to Mexico, the Middle East and Oceania showed the strongest growth: 68 percent, 19 percent and 12 percent, respectively.

For the first five months of this year, outbound air traffic ticked 3 percent higher compared to the same period in 2009, hitting 15.1 million. And, positive growth occurred in five of the eight overseas regions, the U.S. Department of Commerce reports.

While the growth story is solid, don’t forget that were measuring against a severely depressed baseline. Travel and tourism spending was in the tank last year, following the global financial crisis triggered in September 2008. Though the numbers are headed in the right direction, the road to a full recovery remains long.

What is interesting is that more Americans are traveling, and they’re spending more while doing so, showing that the travel market recovery may have some legs. U.S. travelers spent $2.4 billion on foreign air carriers in May 2010, a year-over-year surge of 19 percent.

[photo by uggboy via Flickr]