Washington — New government data released in November indicates a 3.9% overall drop for international inbound travel to the U.S. through June 2017.
Countries with the biggest drop in business travelers in the first half of this year included Argentina, down 30.9%, Switzerland down 23.9%, and Brazil, down 23.2%. China also showed a weakening of business travelers with a decline of 11.2%. Other countries with double-digit drops were Venezuela (19.6%), India (18.2%), and Colombia (13.8%). In each of those cases except Venezuela, the business travel decline was steeper than the drop in those visiting for pleasure. As many as a quarter of travelers to the U.S. from countries like the Netherlands and Germany come here for business purposes.
U.S. Ports of Entry also experienced a decline in passenger numbers. Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport saw the biggest drop at 23%, followed by New York (JFK) at 20% and Dallas at 18%. The only ports of entry that experienced overall growth were Boston and Honolulu at a scant 1% each and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., at 4%.
Expo! Expo!, staged by IAEE in San Antonio the last week of November, was under way when this travel trend data was released. “Yes, international attendance was impacted. We were down slightly, (but) we still had 25 countries represented,” said IAEE President and CEO and Chairman of the Convention Industry Council David DuBois, noting that 30 countries were represented last year.
Among other possible factors affecting Expo! Expo! attendance: shows that were postponed because of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose and Maria may have been rescheduled for the same week as IAEE out of necessity. Others may have had conflicting dates due to venue availability. In addition, some foreign governments have put restrictions on how often employees can travel to industry events, cutting in to their overall attendance, DuBois said.
In response to the report, U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow said that the travel industry will “turn over every stone looking for all available policy options to better promote the U.S. as an international destination.”