THE U.S. IS expected to continue losing its share of the international travel market for the next two years, according to the U.S. Travel Association. Concern over that decline has USTA calling for support for legislation to renew Brand USA, the public-private partnership designed to promote the country to foreign travelers.
Travel to the U.S. dropped to 11.7 percent of the global market in 2018, down from the high of 13.7 percent it saw in 2015, a loss of 14 million international visitors, USTA said. The association said the decline of the U.S. share of the market will continue until at least 2022 and could cost the country $59 billion in international traveler spending and 120,000 U.S. jobs.
Causes of the decline include primarily the strength of the U.S. dollar, making travel here more expensive, along with trade tensions and competition from other nations.
“Everyone is wondering how much longer the U.S. economic expansion can go on, and shoring up our international travel market share would be a great way to help it continue,” said USTA Executive Vice President of Public Affairs and Policy Tori Barnes. “There are some tools in the policy toolbox that will help fix it, and we’re not talking about huge taxpayer-funded spending outlays. Passing legislation to renew Brand USA is the most immediate move to help correct this problem, and we hope this shows Congress the urgency of getting that done this year.”
U.S. Sens. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) sponsored the reauthorization bill. Brand USA has brought 6.6 million incremental international visitors to the U.S. since 2013, according to Blunt’s office, creating a nearly $48 billion economic impact and supporting more than 50,000 jobs a year. In 2018 alone it generated $4.1 billion in incremental visitor spending, resulting in a marketing return on investment of 32:1.
“The renewal of Brand USA is critical to driving American jobs and exports, as well as travelers throughout the country,” USTA President and CEO Roger Dow said previously. “This is smart policymaking in support of a proven program that will help sustain our economic expansion for years to come without cost to taxpayers.”
AAHOA Interim President and CEO Rachel Humphrey said international travel to the U.S. supports tens of thousands of jobs and injects billions of dollars into the U.S. economy.
“Brand USA is a proven program that bolsters economic expansion at no cost to taxpayers. America’s hoteliers are heartened to see a concerted, bipartisan effort to help our nation claim its share of the global travel market,” Humphrey said.
USTA also suggested other policy changes to improve travel from abroad. They include renaming and expanding the Visa Waiver Program to the Secure Travel Partnership; expanding U.S. Customs and Border Protection ’s Global Entry program; and focusing on lowering both customs entry wait times and visa processing wait times, especially in commercially pivotal markets such as China.
“Most Americans believe the U.S. should be the world leader in everything—and with all the incredible things you can see and do in every corner of this country, that is especially true of international tourism,” said Barnes. “But reclaiming our market share is not just a matter of pride—it is economically vital, and can help sustain our GDP expansion when we’re seeing some other headwinds on the horizon. Recapturing our market share should, by all rights, be a national priority.”