On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis released numbers that revealed a 3.1 percent decrease in international visitor spending over the course of 2017, after declining in 2016 as well. This is a deepening concern among the travel industry.
According to analysis by U.S. Travel economists, from 2015 to 2017 spending by international visitors in the United States – which is counted as an export dollar – declined by 5.8 percent, while other U.S. exports increased by 3.5 percent. This is a stark contrast to the 2010-2015 period, when spending by international visitors in the U.S. increased by 48 percent—more than twice as fast as the 21 percent increase in other exports of U.S. goods and services. The overall travel trade surplus, which takes into account all travel imports and exports (including passenger fares, education and medical expenses, and spending by border/temporary workers) was $70 billion in 2017, down from $84 billion in 2016—and the smallest travel trade surplus since a 2010 low of $57.9 billion.
Travel exports consistently support the U.S. trade balance—without them, our country’s goods and services trade deficit would be much wider. Travel’s contribution to offsetting the trade deficit is threatened, though, by the findings in Tuesday’s government report. Simply put, sustained declines in international visitor spending mean fewer U.S. jobs and less revenue for public services throughout states and local economies. International travel is our country’s No. 1 service export, and 15.3 million American workers depend on a healthy travel industry for their employment.
“Every year of decline represents billions of dollars lost, and that ripple effect is felt throughout the American economy. The Visit U.S. Coalition was formed to work with the Administration to increase international inbound travel, and thus increase economic growth. Through smart policies and a welcoming message, we can ensure that the United States is the most secure and most visited country in the world.”
U.S. Travel is a founding member of the Visit U.S. Coalition, along with multiple leading business organizations, including the American Hotel & Lodging Association, the National Restaurant Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. For the sake of millions of American jobs, we stand ready to help the Trump administration regrow our country’s share of the international travel market—and remind the world what makes America great.