It's been a rough year for U.S. travel, with international arrivals down. While an increase in visitors may be on the horizon for 2020, it's not entirely clear why.
While United States inbound travel has had a less-than-stellar year, the U.S. Department of Commerce is optimistic about growth in international arrivals through 2024.
The latest forecasts from the National Travel and Tourism Office, part of the Commerce Department, project that international arrivals will return to an upward trend in 2020, growing 2 percent to reach 80.7 million visitors. That trendline is projected to continue until 2024, when it will reach 90.8 million arrivals. As for the current year, arrivals are expected to drop 1 percent over the course of 2019, ending the year at 79.1 million.
The U.S.’s largest overseas origin markets (foreign nations excluding Canada and Mexico) are projected to remain the United Kingdom, Japan, and China through 2024. However, Chinese travelers are projected to decline 5 percent year on year by the end of 2019. Visitors from Canada and Mexico are also both expected to decline in 2019, by three and 4 percent respectively, compared to the year before. The projections are based on economic, demographic, and social factors as well has historical visitation trends and other sources.
The projections will come as a relief to the U.S. travel sector, which has seen flat or declining growth in international arrivals throughout 2019. Insiders have blamed a range of factors including the strong dollar, trade tensions, and uncertainty around Trump administration’s policies.
It’s unclear what about 2020 and beyond is the cause for the National Travel and Tourism Office’s optimism. After all, Trump’s policies still have the potential to further dissuade travelers — consider the proposal to require disclosure of social media accounts as part of the Visa Waiver Program — and factors such as trade tensions are virtually impossible to predict in the current political climate. Brand USA’s future is also not yet secured. It’s also important to note that while arrivals may increase, market share of global travelers has been projected to continue its decline through 2022 by trade group U.S. Travel Association.
Skift reached out to the Department of Commerce and will update this post when they respond.
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Photo credit: The Washington Monument in the nation's capitol. Pedro Szekely / Flickr