TRAVEL TO AND within the U.S. maintained its steady growth in December, according to the U.S. Travel Association’s newest Travel Trends Index. USTA also is predicting a surge in the domestic business travel in 2019, but concerns remain that international inbound traffic will continue to flatten.
US travel grew 3.6 percent over the same period last year, according to the TTI. It is the 108th straight month of overall expansion.
USTA’s Leading Travel Index is projecting that the international travel growth rate will slow to 2 percent through June 2019 despite the fact that the segment saw 2.8 percent growth in December. The growth rate was 3.8 percent in November.
“A projected global economic cooling and persistent trade tensions will continue to threaten international inbound travel growth,” USTA Senior Vice President for Research David Huether said. “The expected softening of the dollar and the de-escalation of the U.S.-China trade conflict should be positives for the international segment, but the market will not be able to fully capitalize on those advantages without some help.”
That help could come in the form of a long-term renewal of Brand USA, a federally sanctioned marketing program aimed at attracting more foreign visitors to the U.S., and the enhancement and expansion of the Visa Waiver Program, Huether said. Other positive trends could support the U.S. travel market in the coming months as well.
USTA has been expressing concerns about slowing growth in the international market for several months now.All travel segments reported growth in December and domestic travel demand rose 3.6 percent compared to December 2017.
“With all 12 months’ data now in, the travel index shows that, travel to and within the US grew faster in 2018 than in 2017. While international and domestic leisure growth was steady, the most impressive news is that business travel had its best year since 2010,” Huether said.
Domestic travel is expected to grow approximately 2.6 percent year-over-year through June 2019, with business and leisure both contributing to the expansion. USTA predicts a surge in business travel with 3.4 percent growth.
The strong growth in December’s travel activity is the end of a robust year for the overall U.S. economy, said President of Oxford’s Tourism Economics group Adam Sack.
“As we enter 2019, both domestic and international demand are showing signs of deceleration but remain positive. Though leading indicators are generally encouraging, financial market volatility and a slowing global economy pose real risks to the near-term travel outlook.”