Foreign visitor spending in U.S. gets ugly

The U.S. Department of Commerce tells us that spending in the United States by foreign visitors fell 13 percent to $10.3 billion for the month of October – off $1.6 billion from October 2008. For the entire year, international visitor spending plunged 16 percent. Spending fell $18.6 billion. The good news is that the October decline is better than the year-to-date drop, which the international travel market may be on its way back.

Visitors to the United States spent $8 billion in October on goods and services related to tourism and travel, off 12 percent year-over-year. This money was spent on “food, lodging, recreation, gifts, entertainment, local transportation in the United States, and other items incidental to foreign travel,” according to a Commerce Department statement.

Passenger fare receipts – including air and other forms of international travel to the United States – fell close to 16 percent to $2.2 billion for the month of October. This is off more than $420 million compared to October 2008. October was the twelfth month in a row in which travel and tourism exports declined year-over-year.From January to October this year, foreign visitors dropped $100.9 billion getting to and hanging out in the United States. But, they 16 percent by which they trimmed their spending is not without similarity on our side of the equation. U.S. travel imports – i.e., those of us visiting other countries – reached a mere $81.6 billion, off around 13 percent ($12.1 billion). The result was a trade surplus of $19.2 billion for the first 10 months of 2009, representing a decline of 25 percent from the 2008 travel and tourism trade surplus.

The tanking of the travel market at the end of 2008 – following the near-collapse of the global financial services market in September – marked the end of more than five years of consecutive monthly growth in travel and tourism exports. For the past 12 months, the situation has been grim, but the pressure appears to be easing, at least slightly.

The broader economic climate seems to be improving slowly, but it remains vulnerable to many risks. Another financial time bomb could send everything off the rails again, so it’s certainly too soon to say the travel market is returning to normal. There are signs, however, that it could be headed in the right direction. Fast and easy answers, on the other hand, will remain elusive for a while.

Foreign visitation to the U.S. on the road to recovery

The travel market is showing some signs of stability! Finally! In September, the Department of Commerce reports that 4.1 million people visited the United States from abroad, down only 1 percent from the previous September. Visitation for the first nine months of this year fell 8 percent. Spending was down 14 percent from September to September, hitting $10.3 billion for the month. Year-to-date, foreign visitors to the United States have spent $90.6 billion, which is off 16 percent year-over-year. Nonetheless, it’s headed in the right direction. Nonetheless, foreign visitation suffered its eleventh straight month of declines.

Canadian visitation ticked up 3 percent in September, though for the first nine months of the year, it’s still down 7 percent. Meanwhile, visits from Mexico fell a modest 1 percent from September 2008 to September 2009 and is down 6 percent for the year.

Visitors crossing an ocean to reach the United States fell 4 percent in September — bringing the year-to-date decline to 9 percent. In September, 11 of the top 20 countries posted declines, five of them at double-digit rates. But, there’s some good news. Visits from the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands and Ireland posted double-digit year-over-year increases for the month.

Recession impact evident in January, foreign visits to U.S. down

Foreign visits to the United States are down 9 percent year-over-year for January 2009, according to an announcement by the U.S. Department of Commerce. Spending by this group of visitors reached $10.6 billion – down 7 percent from January 2008. So, it looks like the people who spend less aren’t coming, since cash isn’t falling as fast as visitation. Slightly more than 3 million people visited the United States from abroad this year.

This confirms the worldwide effect of what was once called a “subprime mortgage crisis.” The global recession has led to a decline in consume rspending that includes travel.

Half the traffic came from our neighbors. Canada sent 1.1 million visitors to the United States, but this is down more than 12 percent year-over-year. Land arrivals fell 16 percent, with air arrivals dropping by only 8 percent. Mexico had 405,000 visitors to the United States in January. This is a decline of 4 percent. Air arrivals fell 16 percent, with land arrivals actually up 2 percent.

Excluding Canada and Mexico, U.S. arrivals totaled 1.5 million, a fall of 8 percent. Four of the top 20 countries (by number of travelers sent to the United States) showed increases, and two of them had double-digit year-over-year growth.

Brazil: up 5 percent (and showing 32 months of consecutive increases)

China: up 37 percent (and showing 35 months of consecutive increases)

Italy: up 6 percent (showing 25 months of consecutive increases)

Argentina: up 19 percent (and showing 30 months of consecutive increases)

U.S. visitation from the 27 countries in the European Union fell 11 percent overall for January 2009 (relative to January 2008), and travel from Western Europe was down 12 percent. Western Europe accounts for 37 percent of all overseas arrivals to the United States. Travel from Eastern Europe to the United States was up 5 percent. Travel from Asia to the United States, on the other hand, fell 9 percent year-over-year but nonetheless accounted for 31 percent of overseas arrivals to the United States. Travel from Japan fell 13 percent, with South Korea down 17 percent. Visits from India plunged 12 percent year-over-year.