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.

Visitors from outside the U.S. down 9 percent, spending a lot less

Visits from outside the United States continued their slide in August. The U.S. Department of Commerce reports that 5.4 million people visited the United States from other countries in August this year. Unfortunately, that’s a drop of 9 percent from August 2008. And, the smaller number of people is spending less money when it comes here. In August 2009, international visitors spent $10 billion. This sounds like a lot, but it’s off almost 21 percent from last year. For the first eight months of this year, spending by foreign visitors reached $79.5 billion, down 17 percent year-over-year. The fact that the year-to-date decline isn’t as bad as what we saw in August suggests that the situation has been worsening.

Trends in visits from Canada and Mexico are consistent with the global trend. Canadian visits fell 6 percent in August and are off 8 percent for the year through August. Meanwhile, visits from Mexico surged in August, gaining 23 percent, with land arrivals up 37 percent and air arrivals down 7 percent. This wasn’t enough to change the situation for the year, however. For the first eight months of 2009, visits from Mexico fell six percent relative to the same period in 2008.

Visits from overseas (not including Mexico and Canada) were off 6 percent in August and 9 percent for the year. Of the top 20 countries sending visitors to the United States, 11 sustained decreases for the month of August, with five of these declines hitting double-digit levels. Along with Mexico, China, Brazil and the Bahamas posted double-digit increases. Year-to-date, 17 of the top 20 countries showed declines in visitation to the United States, eight of them reaching double-digit levels.

Europe certainly isn’t sending as many visitors to the United States as it once did. For August, visits are off 11 percent — the same rate posted for 2009 so far. The United Kingdom‘s visits to the United States were down 13 percent in August, which is disproportionately powerful, given that the United Kingdom accounts for 34 percent of all Western European arrivals in the United States. Through August, visits to the United States from the United Kingdom were off 16 percent, with Germany down 6 percent and France down 3 percent.

The trend is improving in Japan. While visits so far this year were down 16 percent by August, the month of august itself showed an improvement, with visits from Japan down only 8 percent. Japan accounts for nearly half of all Asian visitors to the United States. Year-to-date, visits from South Korea and India fell 11 percent and 12 percent, respectively.

It’s clear that travel to the United States continues to suffer from the effects of the worldwide recession, particularly since, the Department of Commerce says, business travel is falling faster than leisure travel this year.

[Chart courtesy of the U.S. Department of Commerce]

Everyone wants to go to the U.S.: posts highest scores in brand survey

Step aside, Australia: travelers now prefer the United States. A report by consulting firm FutureBrand shows that the United States’ Country Brand Index topped Australia, which usually has the top spot. The survey collects the thoughts of around 3,000 international business and recreational travelers, measuring how various countries are perceived. The report credits President Obama with driving the increase, since a decent dose of anti-American sentiment around the world put some pressure on the countries performance in the rankings.

The United States ranks best as “ideal for business,” but it lags in many of the 29 other categories. Japan and the United Kingdom score higher for nightlife, and Singapore beats the United States as a shopping destination.

Even with the high score, the Department of Commerce expects visits from abroad to fall 8 percent this year, thanks to an awful global economy.

Interested in seeing the whole top 10 list? Check for it after the jump.

1. United States

2. Canada (hosting the Winter Olympics next year)

3. Australia

4. New Zealand

5. France

6. Italy

7. Japan

8. United Kingdom

9. Germany

10. Spain

[Photo by Diacritical via Flickr]

Travel from the rest of the world to the U.S. falls … again

Travel fell again in 2009, according to U.S. Department of Commerce data, as a weak economy put pressure on both personal and corporate travel budgets.

Only 3.6 million people arrived from other countries, marking a decline of 11 percent from June 2008 to June 2009. For the six months of the year, international arrivals were off 10 percent year-over-year. The spending situation was even worse. Guests to the United States fell 22 percent from June 2008 to June 2009, the eight month in a row in which this measure dropped. For the first half of the year, foreign visitors spent $60 billion – a 15 percent decline.

Travel from Canada took a hit in June, down 13 percent in June. Land arrivals fell 15 percent, with 11 percent fewer coming by air. For the first half of the year, Canadian visits were off 9 percent. The situation with Mexico was more favorable. Land arrivals jumped 5 percent, with air travel down 15 percent. Overall, travel from Mexico to the United States showed a modest decline of 1 percent for the month of June. For the year, however, visits from Mexico plunged 13 percent year-over-year.

Excluding Canada and Mexico, foreign visits fell for 16 of the top 20 countries in June – nine at double-digit rates. For the first two quarters of 2009, the results for the top 20 are the same, though only eight countries posted double-digit drops. Travel from Europe fell 11 percent for the first half of the year, with the United Kingdom posting a worse-than-average rate of 17 percent. This country accounts for 36 percent of all Western European arrivals, and Western Europe is responsible for close to half of all overseas visitors to the United States. Visits from Eastern Europe were up 3 percent from June 2008 to June 2009 and 1 percent for the first half of the year.

Asia, however, sustained the greatest drops. From June 2008 to June 2009, visitation from Asia fell 28 percent – driving the first-half results down 17 percent. Visits from Japan plunged 39 percent from June to June and 18 percent for the first half of the year. Japan sent 51 percent of Asian visitors to the United States in the first half of the year. Travel from South Korea and India fell 17 percent and 14 percent, respectively, with China down 4 percent for the first half of the year.