European Travel Commission Posts Update of U.S. Travel to Europe

The European Travel Commission has posted its latest update of U.S. travel to Europe.

The offseason opened with the largest increase this year in overall trans-Atlantic traffic. Leading carriers reported an average 7.8 percent rise for October, which followed an average 6.0 percent increase for September. The increase was made possible by an average 10.0 percent expansion in capacity. The average load factor was 84.2. Continental led the way with 15 percent-plus increases in capacity and traffic. See the Trans-Atlantic Traffic Trends chart.

The substantial gains in international air traffic—reported for all regions—were remarkable considering that so much of the world is still struggling with economic recession or only slowly swinging into growth. The U.S. recovery is far from robust, but is no longer threatening to stall into a double-dip recession. The estimate of third quarter growth grew from 2 percent to 2.5 percent. The previous quarters were: fourth quarter ’09, 5.6 percent; first quarter, 2.7 percent; second quarter, 1.7 percent. Most economists say growth will continue into the first half of 2011, but not much beyond the 2.5 percent rate.

Travel from Europe to the U.S. is up by 2.8 percent to 7.84 million visits through September, according to the Department of Commerce.

The economic outlook darkened for Europe, as last weekend’s bailout of the Irish government failed to quell credit and debt worries. Ireland is in turmoil over its latest and harshest austerity budget, required by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund in return for the loans. Ireland’s deficit is running at 32 percent of GDP in a losing attempt to stabilize its banks. The latter, swamped by mortgages that went bad with the collapse of the housing market, are now desperately trying to hold depositors.

Making no obvious dent in trans-Atlantic numbers were security ‘alerts’ of possible Al Qaida attacks issued in early October by the U.S. State Department for Americans traveling in Europe, and by security forces in Britain, France and Germany. Nor did cargo bombs, originating from Yemen, that were discovered thanks to a tip from Saudi Arabia. Nor did Germany’s more detailed November 20 warnings of a Mumbai-style attack in that country.

But the U.S. media did go into a frenzy over deployment of body scanners at 69 airports and new, more invasive Travel Security Administration pat-down procedures.

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