Americans still spending everywhere else

Last year, 63.6 million Americans traveled abroad, a 1 percent drop from 2007, according to data from the U.S. Department of Commerce. This was the first fall since 2002. Nonetheless, spending grew fro the fifth year in a row to $112.3 billion – up 7 percent from 2007. Americans spent $79.7 billion in foreign countries, with the balance ($32.6 billion) coming from air transportation.

Mexico bucked the trend in 2008: travel from the United States grew by 4 percent. Travel to Canada, the other nearby destination, dropped 7 percent, and overseas excursions were off 1 percent.

In addition to being the top destination for Americans abroad, Mexico led in spending. Americans dropped $11.1 billion with its neighbor to the south, followed by the United Kingdom ($10.5 billion), Canada ($7.3 billion), Germany ($6.3 billion) and Japan ($5.2 billion). U.S. travelers set spending records last year in Germany, Japan, Italy, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea, Australia, the Netherlands and Argentina.

Foreign spending in U.S. continues to fall

Foreign spending in the United States continues its downward spiral. According to recent U.S. Department of Commerce data, visitors to the United States from outside the country fell 17 percent from April 2008 to April 2009, settling at $9.5 billion. In conjunction with struggles in the domestic market, the result is an even greater gap that remains to be filled.

Spending on travel and tourism-related goods and services amounted to $7.4 billion in April, down 17 percent (consistent with the overall result). This consists of such products and services as food, lodging, recreation, gifts, entertainment and travel within the country. Another $2.1 billion came from travel to the United States from other countries. This represents a fall of 18 percent from April of 2008 and a decline of 4 percent from March 2009.

This is the sixth month in a row in which U.S. travel exports fell relative to the same month the previous year.

  • November 2008: -4 percent
  • December 2008: -2 percent
  • January 2009: -5 percent
  • February 2009: -9 percent
  • March 2009: -19 percent
  • April 2009: -17 percent

While the year-over-year declines softened from March to April, it’s clear that, in general, the slide of U.S. travel exports has accelerated significantly. This trend is also a drastic change from the 60 months of gains that preceded it.

For the year, the situation is dismal, as well. From January through April, U.S. travel exports reached $40.3 billion, which is off 12 percent ($5.7 billion) from the same period in 2008. The United States still has a trade surplus – of $6.4 billion – but it’s down $2.3 billion year-over-year.

Tough 2009 ahead for international visits, 2010 comeback

We all expected it: fewer international visitors are going to come to the United States this year. Overall, revenue from foreign guests is expected to fall 8 percent, according to a study by the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Twenty-four of the top five arrival markets are likely to drop. Drops of 13 percent, 12 percent and 11 percent are likely for Ireland, Spain and Mexico, respectively, with the United Kingdom and France posting declines of around 10 percent. Canada’s anticipated drop is 6 percent.

Visits from Europe should fall 9 percent this year – the largest regional decline. It will take until 2013 for European visits to the United States to return to 2008 levels. The Asia-Pacific region is projected to fall l5 percent this year but will grow at a rate of 21 percent through 2013, leading to more than a net recovery, especially for India, China, South Korea and Australia. The 4 percent decline in South America is forecasted to turn around by 2013, with visits growing 23 percent relative to 2008. This will make it the second-fastest growing region in the world for foreign visitors to the United States.

Globally, visits to the United States from abroad are projected to grow 3 percent in 2010, followed by a 5 percent annual growth rate through 2013.

Strong 2008 continues to Q1 for UK travel to US

There may be bad news all over the travel economy, but from time to time, we’re able to dig up a positive development. The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Office of Travel and Tourism Industries was able to deliver a bit yesterday. Travel from the United Kingdom to the United States was up 3 percent in 2008 from 2007. Sure, it’s not much, but it’s better than a downward spiral.

Last year, 4.6 million people came to the United States from the UK, an increase of only 1 percent year-over-year. Just over a million of them came in the last quarter of the year, representing a drop of 11 percent from the same quarter in 2007. In November and December 2008, arrivals were down 14 percent (for each month) from the same periods in the prior year.

The first quarter of 2009 remained fairly steady, with bookings to the United States by UK tour operators down slightly. Sixty percent reported a decrease in bookings, with only 20 percent reporting projected increases. They meet in the middle at flat-to-down slightly. This trend seems likely to continue in the second quarter, with 56 percent of UK tour operators expecting trips to the United States to fall and 16 percent reporting “much lower bookings for the quarter.”

Record foreign travel spending in 2008, unlikely to continue

Records were broken last year. International visitors to the United States spent $142.1 billion on travel and tourism-related activities (including traveling to and within the country), according to preliminary U.S. Department of Commerce statistics. This is up 16 percent from 2007 – which was a record-setting year, as well.

Visitors spent $110.5 billion on travel and tourism-related goods and services in 2008, a 14 percent increase year-over-year. This includes food, lodging, recreation, gifts and entertainment. They spent another $31.6 billion on travel using U.S. carriers and vessel operators, a 24 percent spike from 2007.

Last year’s success was driven largely by spending early in the year, as international visitors to the United States took advantage of a weak U.S. dollar and generally robust financial conditions. Toward the end of 2008, of course, market conditions turned, setting the tone for 2009. In the fourth quarter, travel and tourism spending by international visitors fell 10 percent, and preliminary data for the beginning of this year indicates a tough market to come (which isn’t exactly a secret).

Travel and tourism spending by visitors from outside the country accounted for 8 percent of all U.S. exports last year – not to mention 26 percent of services exports. This makes travel and tourism the country’s top services export. Travel and tourism exports grew faster than imports y a ratio of 2:1 in 2008 and constituted more than 20 percent of the total U.S. services sector trade surplus.

Spending by visitors from the United Kingdom and Canada grew most in hard dollar terms ($2.5 billion each), followed by Germany ($1.3 billion), France ($1.2 billion) and Italy ($1 billion). In percentage terms, Italy and France led the world, with its visitors spending 38 percent more in 2008 than in 2007. Argentina, the Netherlands and China turned in solid increases, as well – 32 percent, 32 percent and 31 percent, respectively. Of all the countries reported, only Argentina, Hong Kong, Japan, South Africa and Taiwan did not set visitor spending records.

The top five international markets for U.S. travel and tourism exports were: Canada at $18.7 billion, United Kingdom at $17.5 billion, Japan at $15.1 billion and Germany at $6.5 billion.

The trend is likely to come to a close this year, given the pressure of a worldwide financial crisis and the resurgence of the U.S. dollar. The travel industry is expected to shed more than 200,000 jobs in the United States this year, and the many travel deals available tell the rest of the story.

Buckle up; it’s going to be a rough year for the travel industry.