National Tourism Office Shows Decline in International Inbound Travelers

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Travel and tourism to the United States continued to shrink in 2018, with data from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National and Tourism Office (NTTO) showing a 3% drop compared to the year previous in visitation arrivals — the third consecutive year the office has reported a decline.

Based off a survey of 9,689 inbound travelers, the NTTO gleaned a snapshot of 2018 travel trends, which showed an increase in trip planning, the number of women traveling, and inbound travelers from Asia; further, it shows a decrease in European travelers and prepaid packages.

However, while inbound foreign tourism declined by 3%, when visitors from Canada and Mexico are included, inbound tourism actually increased 3.5% in 2018.

For the fifth year, holiday/vacation travel led the way as the main reason for inbound U.S. travel (71%), followed by business (11%), and visiting friends/relatives (10.6%).

Inbound travelers also took fewer days to plan their trips. For 2018, travelers on average spent 118 days planning, while in 2017 they spent 122 days; in 2016 they took 114 days. The use of prepaid travel packages remained the same from the previous year (11.5%). However, it is still a decline from 2016, where 12.4% used a prepaid package, and 2014 where 13.9% used a prepaid package.

While the number of men traveling to the U.S. inched slightly from 60.8% in 2017 to 60.9% in 2019, it is still on the decline from previous years. In 2000, men made up 69.4% of inbound travelers. By 2014, 62.7% of respondents were men and by 2016, men made up 61.5%.

The decline in male respondents represents a rise in female travelers.

Florida and California remained the top two destinations for travelers, with Orlando and Los Angeles the top two city destinations. Eighteen percent selected Miami as their point of entry, while Los Angeles was chosen by 14.8% of respondents.

Similarly, 35.4% of participants said they went to an amusement park while in the U.S.; 40% of respondents visited national parks and monuments and 29.3% reported visiting historical monuments.

Europe remained the top exporter of inbound travelers, with 41.6% claiming a European country as their home. However, this is a decline from 43.2% of the previous year and is a continuation of a decline that began after 2004, when European travelers made up 55.7% of inbound travelers.

Following Europeans, people from Asian countries made up 25.1% of inbound travelers in 2018, with 8.1% from South Korea, and roughly 6% from Japan and China. While 25.1% is a 1.9% decrease from 2017, it still represents a steady rise in Asian travelers.

Next, 20.2% of respondents identified being from South America, with Brazilians comprising 9.1%.

In the U.S., tourism is a $1.62 trillion industry (both direct and indirect), representing 2.8% of the GDP and employing 7.8 million people, according to the NTTO.

International Visitors to the U.S. (2018)
Canada 21.2 Million
Mexico 18.5 Million
U.K. 4.7 Million
Japan 3.5 Million
China  3 Million
S. Korea  2.2 Million
Brazil 2.2 Million
Germany 2.1 Million
France 1.8 Million
India 1.4 Million
TOTAL 79.6 Million


Percentage of Arrivals Over Previous Years
  2000 2005 2010 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
Total Arrivals (000s) 8,676 6,547 7,962 10,669 12,150 13,591 12,480 12,372 12,005
Percentage Change of Previous Year (%)        4        6      15        11        14        12        -8        -1        -3




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