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Aussie visitation falls 11% as US battles tourism slump

June 2, 2017 Headline News No Comments Email Email

Travel to the US is under assault on several fronts, with latest official figures showing steep declines from major overseas source markets including an 11% slump from Australia (measured before the election of President Trump) while the industry battles a proposal by Trump to slash federal funding for Brand USA.

On top of that comes non-government data suggesting that demand for travel to the US is actually in a nosedive, far greater than official figures indicate.

The news has arrived, inconveniently, on the eve of the US Travel Association’s IPW 2017 travel market, which will be held in Washington DC for the first time from this weekend, running 3-7 June 2017, and will be attended by a sizeable Australian delegation.

Tourism to the USA

Earlier this week, Trump released his budget for financial year 2018, which includes a proposal to cut federal funding for Brand USA, the public-private partnership created by Congress in 2010 under the Travel Promotion Act, to market the US internationally as a tourist destination. The US Travel Association and the broader travel community are lobbying members of Congress to let them know the tremendous value Brand USA represents.

Meanwhile, data from Foursquare indicates US tourism is facing a severe downturn. That’s Foursquare the search-and-discovery service mobile app; not Four Square the chain of small-town supermarkets in New Zealand.

Foursquare data says the US lost 16% market share of international arrivals from November 2016 to March 2017, with the decline having begun in October.

Figures indicate that during that time, other countries’ share of international tourism was increasing while the US share declined.

Meanwhile, latest official figures from the US Department of Commerce for the month of September 2016, released yesterday, show that all seven of America’s overseas markets posted declines in non-resident visits. That’s Western Europe, South America, Oceania, the Middle East, the Caribbean, Eastern Europe, and Africa. Travel from two of the top five US international country markets fell sharply: Britain dived 10.1% and travel from Japan declined by 8.9%.

Australian visitation fell 11% in September, year on year – the steepest decline of any major national market other than Brazil.

The figures can’t be blamed on the Trump effect. In September, it looked highly unlikely that Donald Trump would be elected president. Most polls indicated a comfortable win for Democratic contender Hillary Clinton. The election was in full swing during September, which may in itself have had a deterrent effect.

The US figures show that 6.5 million international visitors travelled to the US in September 2016, down marginally (-1675 visits) from September 2015. The result would have been far worse if it hadn’t been for growth in visits from the two biggest US international markets, Canada and Mexico. South Korea is also bucking the trend, with 23% growth in September.

In September 2016, Canada and Mexico were the top US inbound markets. Non-resident visits from Canada grew 2.8% while visits from Mexico increased 10.4%, US Department of Commerce data shows.

For the first nine months of 2016, international visits (57.3 million) were down 2.1% when compared to the same period in 2015.

Top 10 Countries in Visits to the USA (Sort based on September 2016) 

Country of Residence % Change September

2016 vs. 2015

% Change

YTD September

2016 vs. 2015

Canada 3 -9
Mexico 10 6
United Kingdom -10 -5
Japan -9 -5
People’s Republic of China (excluding Hong Kong) 5 13
Germany -6 -10
South Korea 23 12
Australia -11 -7
Brazil -24 -26
France -8 -8

 Written by Peter Needham

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