Each month, the U.S. Travel Association sends its members the U.S. Travel Outlook, which provides insight into the current state of the economy and related industry trends, plus other relevant data from the travel and tourism sector.

Here are some of January 2018’s most compelling findings from the U.S. Travel research team. 

Travel Exports Soften, Reflecting Decline in International Travel Since 2015 

According to data from the U.S. Department of Commerce, the U.S. goods and services trade deficit widened to $50.5 billion in November 2017, the largest deficit in nearly six years. Travel exports remained virtually unchanged at $20.3 billion in November 2017. Without the $5.7 billion trade surplus they generated, America’s total goods and services trade deficit would have been 11.5 percent larger during that month.

Despite the relative strength in comparison to overall goods and services exports, travel exports remained behind the early 2017 pace of $20.6 billion—and their consistent softening last year is reflective of the sharp drop in spending by international visitors to the U.S. in 2017* (a trend that the Visit U.S. Coalition aims to reverse).

*A more comprehensive picture of international travel spending in 2017 will be available on February 6, once the Commerce Department releases the numbers for all 12 months of last year.  

American Consumer Confidence Falters, But Remains Strong Overall  

The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index decreased slightly in December, following a record 17-year high achieved in November. This decline was fueled by a somewhat less optimistic outlook among American consumers for business and job prospects in the coming months. Still, consumers’ expectations remain at historic highs, suggesting economic growth will continue in 2018.

Additionally, U.S. consumer sentiment fell more sharply than expected in December, after reaching a ten-year high in October 2017. Confidence in the economy remained high overall, though, likely in response to record stock prices and low unemployment. 

Travel Employment Affected by International Travel Slowdown

The U.S. economy added more than two million jobs for the seventh year in a row in 2017. The unemployment rate remained low at 4.1 percent. Travel industry employment edged up in December by adding 5,200 jobs, according to the U.S. Travel Association’s estimate based on Labor Department data.

However, travel industry employment grew by just one percent year-over-year from 2016 to 2017, the slowest increase in seven years. This slowdown is likely partially due to the downturn in spending by international visitors. This trend is something to watch, since fewer international visitors means less spending at U.S. retail businesses and restaurants, which means the effects of the international visitation decline that began in 2015 may extend well beyond the travel industry. 

A deeper dive into the data available in the January 2018 U.S. Travel Outlook—which includes the latest data on travel employment, transportation, lodging metrics and more—is online here.

U.S. Travel Association members receive the full U.S. Travel Outlook, plus a myriad of other cutting-edge research reports with information relevant to the travel industry. Learn more about the benefits of becoming a member here—or simply continue to enjoy a small taste of U.S. Travel’s research insight each month here, with the Research Round-Up.