by Loren G. Edelstein | September 05, 2017
The latest Travel Trends Index offers a substantially more pessimistic assessment of the U.S. travel economy than in months past, after a revised analysis reveals major storm clouds for the inbound international travel market. The report, prepared for the U.S. Travel Association by research firm Oxford Economics, updates earlier numbers with new data, and finds that international visitation -- initially thought to have grown consistently this year -- actually contracted in four of the seven months for which data is available.
 
The declines were steepest in February (down 6.8 percent) and March (down 8.2 percent) from the previous report. U.S. Travel economists say the slight uptick in April is likely due to the travel-heavy Easter holiday falling in that month this year. 
 
The data revisions are in line with the international travel drop-off the TTI has been predicting all year long, noted David Huether, U.S. Travel's senior vice president for research. "We kept projecting drops in international visitation, and they kept not materializing," Huether said. "However, we recently were able to access new data inputs for the TTI to give us an even more comprehensive picture, and sure enough, the international travel segment has been far weaker than what was initially shown."
 
U.S. Travel and Oxford routinely seek to identify available data sources that add to the accuracy and comprehensiveness of the index. The data sets added to the latest TTI calculations came from IATA, OAG and other tabulations of international inbound travel to the U.S., and resulted in the downward revision of TTI results from earlier in the year.

With travel supporting one in nine American jobs and inbound international travel the No. 2 overall U.S. export, the the American economy can ill afford for this troubling trend to continue, noted Roger Dow, president and CEO of U.S. Travel Association. "The international travel market is ultracompetitive, and the U.S. is falling behind," said Dow. "Fortunately, there are levers the Trump administration can pull to help right the ship: Continue the Brand USA tourism marketing organization, and protect policies that enable international travel to the U.S., such as Open Skies aviation agreements and the Visa Waiver Program.

 "Inbound travel to the U.S. already went through one 'lost decade' after 9/11," Dow continued. "It took a sustained national policy effort to return to the pre-9/11 level of travel exports, which only happened last year. If we don't want to give back all of that progress, the time to act is now."

Click here to view the full report.