“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 the latest release of data from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Travel and Tourism Office (NTTO) on monthly international inbound visitation to the U.S.

Earlier this week, the Commerce Department issued preliminary estimates of overseas arrivals to the United States (no country-specific data is yet available post-May 2018) for November 2018, as well as January and February 2019 estimates of arrivals from Canada and Mexico.

Overview
Total International Arrivals: After increasing a strong 6.4% during the first half of 2018 compared to the first half of 2017, the pace of international visitation slowed during the second half of the year. In November, the number of international visitors were up just 0.4% on a year-over-year (y/y) basis. In the July-November period, visitations increased just 1.2%. 

Overseas Arrivals: Overseas arrivals to the U.S. increased 2.1% y/y in November 2018. For the January-November 2018 period overall, overseas visitation increased 2.7%, which is an improvement from the 1.6% increase during the first 11 months of 2017.  

Arrivals from Canada: After 19 months of continuous y/y growth (June 2017-December 2018), Canadian arrivals to the U.S. declined in January (-4.2% y/y) and February (-3.7% y/y) of 2019.

Arrivals from Mexico: After increasing by 11.5% during the first half of 2018, Mexican arrivals to the U.S. decreased 2.2% y/y during the second half of 2018. These declines have spilled over into 2019: Mexican arrivals to the U.S. declined in January (-9.6% y/y) and February (-13.3% y/y).

How these figures compare with U.S. Travel’s estimates
The total arrivals data is consistent with the international component of U.S. Travel’s Travel Trends Index (TTI). The TTI calculated that international inbound travel increased by 5.2% during the first half of 2018 and slowed to 1.8% growth during the second half of the year. 

The reported early-2019 decreases in visitation from Canada and Mexico are clearly precipitous. The TTI does not look country-by-country, but it has found that international inbound travel overall was basically flat for that period—suggesting that arrivals from elsewhere essentially offset the drops from Canada and Mexico. Still, the newly detected weakness in our two largest inbound markets obviously bears watching.

Next release
Visitation statistics for all 12 months of 2018 are expected from NTTO in June, at which time U.S. Travel will update its semiannual forecast.