There aren’t as many Japanese tourists walking the streets of the United States as there were a year ago. The latest data from the U.S. Department of Commerce, which covers the third quarter of 2009, puts Japanese travel to the United States down 10 percent to 15 percent on average relative to the same quarter in 2008, and the situation is forecasted to be grim for the fourth quarter results, as well, which are expected to show a continued decline. Seventy-eight percent of the Japan travel trade has projected a drop in fourth quarter travel results year-over-year.
And it doesn’t look better for the beginning of this year. Fifty-two percent of the travel firms in Japan that were surveyed anticipated a decrease in travel bookings to the United States for the first quarter of 2010 relative to the first quarter of 2009. Economic concerns, airfare and fuel charges and pandemic/epidemic fears were reported as the leading drivers of the travel slump for the Japanese market (for travel to the United States).
In the third quarter of 2009, 849,687 people traveled from Japan to the United States, a drop of 5 percent from the third quarter of 2008. July 2009 was particularly tough, with 244,412 arrivals resulting in a year-over-year decline of 15 percent. September was the lone bright spot, with 309,435 arrivals resulting in an increase of 8 percent – the first monthly year-over-year increase in 15 months.
Travel to the United States finally grew in October! After six months of declines, thanks to an Easter bump in April, foreign visitation finally ticked higher, an increase of 1 percent year-over-year, according to data from the U.S. Department of Commerce. If you take the holiday factor out of the equation, the last year-over-year increase came in August 2008. It’s difficult to tell whether the October gain signals a turn, since the 2009 result was measured against the first month following the financial mayhem of September 2008.
Four million people visited the United States from abroad last October and spent $10.3 billion in the process. Unlike the visitation statistic, spending was down … considerably. The cash shelled out by international visitors was off 13 percent year over year. But, the declines are shrinking. For the first 10 months of 2009, visitor spending amounted to $100.9 billion, a decline of 16 percent from the same period in 2008.
Thirteen of the top 20 countries in terms of visitation to the United States posted increases in October — six of them in double digits. Brazil, Australia, China, South Korea, Venezuela and Colombia delivered the greatest gains.The news was mixed from our neighbors. Visits from Canada fell 1 percent from October 2008 to October 2009, which is still an improvement over the year-to-date decline of 7 percent. Mexico, meanwhile, showed a 2 percent increase in October and a 5 percent decline for the year. Slightly more than half of the 4 million visitors to the United States came from overseas — i.e., not Canada or Mexico — an increase of 1 percent year-over-year. Through October, 19.8 million people crossed water to hit the United States, an 8 percent drop from the first 10 months of 2008.
Visits from Western Europe were down 5 percent for October and 11 percent for the year, while Asia posted a 2 percent gain and a year-to-date decline of 11 percent. The greatest gains were in the South American market: visitation to the United States was up 22 percent for October and 6 percent for the first 10 months of 2009.
[Photo by hjl via Flickr]
Visitors to the United States from other countries spent a mere $9.6 billion in July, down almost 24% year-over-year, according to data from the Department of Transportation. Currency exchange rates continue to make a recession even more … ummm … recessed(?) for the travel business. So, we’re looking at nine consecutive months in which tourists from overseas just aren’t plunking down the cash they did last year.
The price paid to travel – called “passenger fare receipts” – plunged 26% from July 2008 to July 2009, with only $2.1 billion spent to get from Point A to Point B and back. This is the lowest level reached for passenger fare receipts in two years. Travel receipts – i.e. the purchase of travel-related goods and services – amounted to $7.5 billion for the month. This is the cash spent on food, lodging, entertainment gifts, and it’s down 23% year-over-year.
The fact that July was the ninth month in which international tourist spending fell masks an even greater problem: this trend has been gaining momentum. In November 2008, foreign visitor spending was off 4% from November 2007. By January 2009, the year-over-year change fell to -6% and -10% in February. May, June and July all posted travel export declines of worse than 20%.
For the year so far, travel exports (same thing as spending by foreign visitors) has reached $69.2 billion – a decline of 17% relative to the same period last year. What’s this mean? People visiting the United States have spent $13.9 billion less than they did last year.
But, in the spirit of fairness, we’re spending less when we leave the United States. American travel imports are down almost 13%. We’ve spent $8.3 billion less than we did last year. But, we still shelled out a total of $57.5 billion in “support” for the local economies we’ve visited in 2009. The United States is still sitting on an $11.7 billion trade surplus in the travel space – but the balance is $5.7 billion less favorable than it was last year.
It’s not exactly a surprise: foreign spending on U.S.-related travel is down sharply year-over-year. In May this year, foreigners dropped $9.5 billion on travel to the United States and tourism within the country. This is down 22 percent from May 2008. according to the Department of Commerce. A global recession triggered by last year’s financial crisis (duh) has made travel relatively more expensive, despite the fact that it’s generally cheaper. After all, a trans-Atlantic flight for $10 is worthless if you only have $1.
People traveling to the United States spent $2.1 billion last May, a decline of more than 22 percent. Other travel and tourism goods and services accounted for $7.5 billion – off 23 percent year-over-year. This is the seventh month in a row in which travel spending to and within the United States fell, and the trend has accelerated since November 2008. Single-digit declines ended in February 2009, and a 15 percent drop in April preceded May’s total 22 percent decline.
So, if you aren’t hearing as many fun accents at your local restaurant, this is the reason why. Travel discounts, sometimes, aren’t enough to offset financial calamity … a fact that industry has come to know all too well.