Foreign Tourism to the US Declines for Second Straight Year
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Foreign Tourism to the US Declines for Second Straight Year

Editor
The strength of the American dollar is a factor; so, perhaps, are our president's policies

Foreign visitors to the United States declined in 2017, and they spent less money while in the country too, the U.S. Department of Commerce confirmed in a data report released this week.

Data shows that, at $187.6 billion, the amount of money spent in the U.S. from January through November by tourists from abroad decreased by 3.3 percent as compared to the same time period the year before. This meant a loss of $4.6 billion in travel-related spending for U.S. businesses, which were projected to lose $1.3 billion in travel-related spending from Europe and the Middle East alone, according to a report by the Global Business Travel Association in May.

The U.S. Travel Association (USTA) is launching a “Visit U.S.” coalition next week, through which multiple travel-related industries will attempt to communicate to the current administration the importance of reveersing this decline in international travel and offering suggestions for how to do so. According to their website, there were 1.7 million fewer international visitors to the U.S. in the first seven months of 2017 as compared to those same months in 2016, and as a result, 40,800 jobs are at risk. Many of these would be in the hotel and food-service industries, to whom foreign tourism is often essential.

“Flourishing international travel is vital to President Trump’s economic goal of sustained 3 percent GDP growth, and the Visit U.S. coalition is being founded for the express purpose of helping him achieve it,” said U.S. Travel Association president and CEO Roger Dow.

According to U.S. Travel, since the 2009 global economic crisis, travel spending around the world had grown each year but slowed down starting in 2015. In the United States, 2017 seems likely to end up as the second consecutive year in which foreign tourist spending declined, although there is still more data yet to come.

Dow feels that the United States needs to take more care with regard to its tourism industry.

"After almost a decade and a half of relatively sustained post-9/11 recovery, since 2015 there's been evidence that the country has gotten complacent with the policies needed to support this vital economic engine and job creator," he said in a statement.

A revised report by the USTA in September had already revealed that international tourism to the U.S. declined over the year so far, contrary to earlier reports of consistent growth. Many tourism experts believe that the decline is due to the current president and his policies regarding outsiders coming into the United States in particular.

In 2016, the USTA inaugurated its Travel Trends Index (TTI) as calculated by Oxford Economics, using data from the U.S. Department of Commerce, the International Air Transport Association, Sabre, and OAG, an air travel intelligence company. The purpose of the TTI is to anticipate any change in travel demand and keep track of any growth or decline.

As the USTA explained in a press release, the September report revised another one from earlier in the year and indicated “major storm clouds for the inbound international travel market.” The weakest months so far had been February, when inbound international travel was down by 6.8 percent, and March, down by 8.2 percent.

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, total international inbound travel to the U.S. had declined by 7.8 percent in March 2017 as compared to the previous year. Many suspect that international tourists, already turned off by the strength of the American dollar, have been made to feel unwelcome by the Trump administration, even in destination cities.

“The President’s continued rhetoric and policies weigh heavily on the international inbound market outlook,” said Adam Sacks, president of Oxford Economics’ Tourism Economics group.

Domestic travel, however, is expected to grow overall, despite a decline in July. It makes sense, considering the number of cities in the United States with great culinary scenes.

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