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Group Launched to Combat Declines in International Travel, Spending

Sandi Cain
, Senior News Editor
January 16, 2018
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Washington, D.C. — In response to reports of declining international travel to the U.S., a new group called the Visit U.S. Coalition was launched on Jan. 16 through the U.S. Travel Association (USTA). 

The number of international travelers to the U.S. has declined 6% over the past two years, and those who are still arriving have been holding their wallets more tightly over the past three years. Inbound travelers posted a 3.3% drop in visitor spending for 2017 (through November), according to data from USTA and the U.S. Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA).

The U.S. was one of only two destinations in the top dozen global markets to see a decline in long-haul inbound travel since 2015, according to the USTA, a nonprofit that represents the travel industry and tracks travel and spending trends in order to determine any changes that need to be made. The only other country to see a decline in international travel in the same time frame was Turkey. 

The Visit U.S. Coalition includes the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, ASAE, SISO, IAEE and several national associations. It aims to bring together travel industry leaders seeking ways to partner with the Trump administration in an effort to reverse an overall 4% decline in international visitors in 2017. Overall international travel to other destinations is up 8%. 

The USTA said this is the first drop in more than a decade despite growth throughout the rest of the world. “This is troubling,” said USTA President and CEO Roger Dow in a conference call announcing the new coalition. “We haven’t emphasized a welcoming message of late, and that needs to be turned around,” he said. 

The spending drop translates to losses of about $4.6 billion within the U.S. and affects roughly 40,000 jobs, according to the BEA report. That’s a reversal from the previous five years, when travel was one of the bright spots for the U.S. economy, generating a $7 billion trade surplus in 2016. The industry also supports 1.3 million jobs — jobs that cannot be exported overseas.

While some of the inbound travel decline can be attributed to a strong dollar, an extended and severe hurricane season and the ‘travel ban’ implemented last spring that affected selected countries, it is alarming to industry officials who have joined the new coalition in the hopes of reversing the trend. The primary message will be “Closed to terrorism but open for business.”

A few participants in the conference call likened today’s circumstances to the drop in the number of international visitors after the terrorist attacks of September 2001. Geoff Freeman, President and CEO of the American Gaming Association, said, “We recovered [then] but trends are reversing again [and] the U.S. needs to avoid a repeat of this devastating past.” Twenty percent of the visitors to Las Vegas are international, he added. 

Reach Roger Dow at (202) 408-8422 or rdow@ustravel.org; Geoff Freeman at (202) 552-2675 or president@americangaming.org

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