U.S. Travel Trends

U.S. Travel Research Round-Up: Interest in American Travel Up, As Is American Consumer Confidence (For Now)

International Visitations Are Slowing - But Searches Are Up, Against All Odds

U.S. Travel Association

Here’s a sampling of September 2016’s most compelling findings from the U.S. Travel research team. 

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 travel industry trends, plus other relevant data and information on the travel and tourism sector.

Here’s a sampling of some of September 2016’s most compelling findings from the U.S. Travel research team.

International Visitations Are Slowing—But Searches Are Up, Against All Odds 

Recent Travel Trends Index reports show that international inbound travel is growing slowly, but likely to decelerate through the end of this year due to a variety of factors, including the strength of the dollar and continued turmoil in the wake of Brexit. However, it is worth noting that:

  1. the travel industry remains in expansion mode; and 

  2. the U.S. share of travel searches from abroad has steadily increased throughout 2016. 

Based on the most recent U.S. Travel Barometer, which includes forward-looking lodging search data from nSight, international travelers who are booking trips within the next 60-90 days are increasingly considering the U.S. as a destination over Europe. America’s share of travel searches conducted by residents of other countries has increased to 16 percent—meanwhile, interest in the United Kingdom, Italy, France and Germany are either flat or down compared to previous months. 

Though it remains to be seen what the overall effect local transmission of Zika in Miami will have on travel bookings, the Southeast region of the U.S. (which includes Florida) remained the top recipient of international searches (27 percent). The Mideast region (which includes New York and Washington, D.C.) followed closely at 26 percent but has been losing share to the nation’s Southwest region (more on that trend below). 

Map - Share of international search by US Region

Domestic Searches Indicate That Americans Are More Interested in Staying Close to Home 

August’s U.S. Travel Barometer indicated that 80 percent of lodging searches by U.S. residents were domestic. This is the highest share recorded since U.S. Travel began tracking this data more than two years ago. Notably, searches to the Southwest region of the U.S. (which includes Texas, Arizona and New Mexico) increased significantly last month, and now represent 20 percent of domestic searches.

There are two potential reasons for American travelers’ increased desire to stay closer to home. Low gas prices and uncertainty abroad may be renewing interest in domestic destinations for travelers who would otherwise set their sights abroad—and this year’s National Park Service Centennial may be the driver in searches for the American Southwest, which is home to 26 major U.S. parks, including the Grand Canyon and Carlsbad Caverns. 

Map - Share of domestic search by US Region

On That Note: How Do Americans Feel About the U.S. Economy? 

Domestically, wages and employment are both up—which means that U.S. consumer confidence is up overall. The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index®, which decreased slightly in July, went back up in August. It now stands at 101.1, compared to 96.7 in July. Short-term expectations regarding employment and personal income prospects also improved, suggesting the possibility that this trend may continue for a few months. 

Steady hiring, low interest rates and low gasoline prices have previously buoyed consumer spending—which experts say has supported the U.S. economy of late, in the absence of strong exports, business investments or productivity gains. However, as the summer season comes to a close, the University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment index posted its third monthly decline in August, which indicates that consumers are still relatively cautious about spending money in the immediate term. Hopefully, American consumers will feel a bit rosier this fall—otherwise a decline in consumer confidence means a decline in the fuel for our current economic boost, and it remains to be seen how this will affect travel spending. 

Graph - Employment and Consumer Confidence

A deeper dive into the data available in the September 2016 U.S. Travel Outlook—which includes the latest data releases 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. 

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