U.S. Travel Trends Index

Unexpected Surge for U.S. Travel Growth Outlook

Interest in the U.S. as a destination soars; U.S. travel economy defies long odds to post late-year gains
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Unexpected Surge for U.S. Travel Growth Outlook

U.S. Travel Association

A volatile political season, a strong dollar and blanket news coverage of the Zika virus could not bridle the growth of America’s travel industry in August, according to the U.S. Travel Association’s latest Travel Trends Index (TTI).

Travel volume in the U.S. rose by 4.4 percent in August relative to a year ago, according to the TTI. Domestic travel registered its fastest year-over-year growth in four months, with continued healthy growth in leisure travel joined by a long-awaited pickup in domestic business travel.

Most notably, interest in the U.S. as a destination has grown both domestically and internationally. According to lodging search data from nSight, international travelers planning trips within the next 60-90 days view the U.S. as a safer and more stable destination than Europe. Too, greater numbers of domestic travelers are taking advantage of low fuel prices, and choosing to stay closer to home this fall.

The nSight indicator is one of several data points used to develop the TTI each month.

According to nSight, 80 percent of lodging searches by U.S. residents in August were domestic—the highest share recorded since U.S. Travel began tracking this data two years ago, and a six percent increase since May. The Southwest region of the U.S. experienced a significant boom in searches, likely spurred by August’s National Park Service Centennial.

Additionally, America’s share of international travel searches rose to 16 percent, up 26 percent since May. Spain, the second-most-searched country, captured only 10 percent of searches. Though it remains to be seen whether this interest will translate into any significant growth in actual bookings, the lodging search numbers are welcome news for a U.S. travel industry that has had to clear some hurdles to sustain its growth throughout 2016.

“Although travel has outperformed the economic recovery overall, our grip on prolonged growth has felt tenuous at times because of the dollar’s impressive run and a rogue’s gallery of other concerning factors,” said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow. “Between TSA’s early-summer issues, Brexit, Zika and a tumultuous U.S. election cycle, it’s been a year of news stories that don’t particularly create the yearning to travel, particularly among internationals. Here is evidence that travelers around the world have been able to look past the headlines to see the reality: the U.S. is open for business.”

In the full TTI report, the 3- and 6-month LTI readings of 50.8 and 50.6, respectively, indicate that U.S. travel overall is expected to grow at a rate of around 1.4 percent through February 2017.

The TTI consists of the Current Travel Index (CTI), which measures the number of person-trips involving hotel stays and/or flights each month, and the Leading Travel Index (LTI), which measures the likely average pace and direction of business and leisure travel, both domestic and international inbound. It assigns a numeric score to every travel segment it examines—domestic and international, leisure and business—in current, 3-month and 6-month predictive indicators. As with many indices similarly measuring industry performance, a score above 50 indicates growth, and a score below 50 indicates contraction.


Table - U.S. Travel Trends Index August2016 Table - U.S. Travel Trends Index August2016

The U.S. Travel Association developed the TTI in partnership with Oxford Economics, and draws from multiple data sources to develop these monthly readings. In order to compile both the CTI and LTI readings, the organization’s research team utilizes multiple unique non-personally identifiable data sets, including:

  • Advance search and bookings data from ADARA and nSight;
  • Passenger enplanement data from Airlines for America (A4A);
  • Airline bookings data from the Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC); and
  • Hotel room demand data from STR.

Click here to read the full report.

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