“By the Numbers” is a periodic look at data on the travel economy from sources outside of the U.S. Travel Association, examining how the numbers align with U.S. Travel’s own research and analysis. This iteration looks at today’s release of March travel exports from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA).

The Bureau of Economic Analysis on Thursday released a report on international trade for March 2019.

Travel exports and imports
Compared to the first quarter of last year, travel exports rose 1.0% during the first quarter of the year, while travel imports increased 7.2%. As a result, the $15.5 billion travel trade surplus in the first quarter of this year was smaller than the $18.2 billion surplus during the first quarter of last year.

Today’s release shows that 2019 is shaping up to be a continuation of a three-year trend (2016, 2017 and 2018), in which travel exports increased at an average annual rate of 1.0% and travel imports increased by 7.0%. This means U.S. travelers’ spending abroad is outpacing international travelers’ spending in the U.S.

Comparing the first quarter of 2019 to the first quarter of 2018:

  • Total travel exports increased 1.0%
  • Travel spending decreased 0.4%
  • Passenger fares decreased 0.6%
  • Other travel exports increased 5.8%

How these figures compare with U.S. Travel’s estimates
While U.S. Travel’s Travel Trends Index (TTI) measures travel volume (trips) rather than spending, the international inbound component of TTI is consistent with today’s report by the Commerce Department.

During the first quarter of 2019, the TTI estimates international inbound travel to the U.S. decreased 1.7% compared to the first quarter of 2018. This is consistent with the Commerce Department’s report of an 0.4% decrease in travel spending by international visitors in the U.S. during this time.