U.S. Travel, Spending Abroad Dips in 2009

There have been several reports of recovery in the travel industry this year. Some are from tour operators like Altour or major consortia such as American Express. Meanwhile, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) is reporting an increase in airline demand, cruise executives are witnessing an increase in bookings and Smith Travel Research sees a luxury rebound in hotels.

Let's hope things continue to improve in 2010 because, according to a government report, 2009 did not do so well. The latest statistics from the U.S. Office of Travel and Tourism Industries (OTTI) are showing that the overall U.S. outbound travel market totaled 61.5 million in 2009, down 3 percent compared to 2008. Travel to overseas regions declined 2 percent, while travel to Mexico and Canada declined 4 percent and 7 percent, respectively.

The top five countries in 2009, measured by U.S. visitation, were Mexico (19.5 million), Canada (11.7 million), the United Kingdom (2.7 million), France (1.9 million) and Italy (1.8 million ).

Spending by U.S. residents traveling abroad (imports) totaled $99.2 billion, down 12 percent from 2008. Spending within foreign countries (travel payments) amounted to $73.2 billion, down 8 percent, and spending on air transportation, via foreign air carriers (passenger fare payments), totaled $26.0 billion in 2009, down 20 percent. Top countries for U.S. spending included Mexico ($9.6 billion), the United Kingdom ($7.8 billion), Canada ($6.2 billion), Japan ($4.8 billion) and Germany ($4.6 billion).

Although visitation was down, new hot spots are emerging as, in 2009, U.S. travelers set records for travel to the regions of Central America, Africa and the Middle East, and to the countries of Greece, Dominican Republic, Israel and India.

Does this drop in international travel concern you? Have you witnessed this trend among your clients?

As the Great Recession began to unfold in 2008, we began to see a lot of clients taking staycations. After reviewing OTTI's latest data, it appears this era of the staycation is not going anywhere fast. Are you witnessing an increase or decrease in staycations since 2008, or no difference at all? 

Please post a comment below, send a tweet to our Twitter page, or write us at our Facebook page. We want to hear from you.

Deborah Mayer wrote on our Facebook page:
I'm getting lots of inquiries for 2011 tours - my business is all international, so that would be a decrease in staycations (I really hate that word).

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