How is International Tourism to the USA Really Doing
If one was to believe much of the media, the United States is being shunned by the world and people are so horrified with President Donald Trump they are boycotting visitation to the United States. Needless to say, this is utter rubbish and even if Godzilla was the US President people would still visit.The qualities of a head of state or head of government generally has negligable influence on the decision of people to visit a country. Only journalists obsessed with politics really believe that the occupant of the White House has anything to do with people choosing to travel or not travel to the USA.
According to Tourism Economics, in 2018 the USA welcomed 79 million international visitors which made it the third most visited destination in the world after France (87 million) and Spain (81.9 million). The growth in international visitation to the USA from 2017-18 was about 3% which was about half the global growth rate in world tourism.
The only region of the world where there was a slight decline in visitation to the US was the Asia Pacific region. Slowing of economic growth in China and the ripple effect this has has in both NE and SE Asia have contributed to the 0.09% decline in tourism from the Asia Pacific.
However all other source markets showed steady growth. Despite talk of a “great big wall” between the USA and Mexico, tourism from Mexico to the USA showed a 6% growth in 2018. In fact, North America (Mexico and Canada) was the strongest growing source market region for the USA. Considering the sometimes bitter words exchanged between the Trump administration and various Middle East countries, tourism to the USA from the Middle East grew by 3.5% in 2018. Similar growth (3.4%) was seen from Europe. Spain, Netherlands, Italy and Brazil were the four source markets that grew by 10% or more.
The tourism love affair between Australia and the USA continues. In 2018, 1.35 million Australians visited the USA which makes the USA Australia’s no 2 international destination after New Zealand.
While the percentage growth rate of international visitation to the USA is below world average, it comes on top of a very high base. It is also important to factor in the significant increase in the value of the US$ against other international currencies. This has resulted in the USA becoming a relatively expensive destination for many international visitors and this trend continues into 2019. More realistic concerns surrounding the growing trade dispute between the USA and China are stirring uncertainties in global markets which has a negative impact on global travel.
As US tourism expert and author Mark Sheehan explained to my students recently, the United States has such an extensive diversity of attractions that people visit America for many reasons. The movie industry has probably done more to attract peope to visit the USA than any government tourism marketing campaign.
The visiting friends and relatives market continues to play a big role in tourism to the USA. Vast US communities of Italian, Irish, Scottish, English, Polish, German, Russian, Scandinavian, Korean, Japanese and Vietnamese origin stimulate VFR visitation. Business travellers from all over the world gravitate to the USA. Even world leaders who declare their hatred of the USA regularly visit New York to denounce the US at the United Nations headquarters. For most “eminent” America haters, New York offers a far more attractive environment to denounce America than their own countries.