Despite an upswing in US arrivals, does the nation need to do more to attract international visitors? Peter Ellegard investigates.
The US is continuing to lose share of international travel, despite rising visitor numbers and efforts to convince the Trump administration of the sector’s importance to the country’s economy.
Speaking at the annual IPW travel convention in Anaheim, California, US Travel Association president and chief executive Roger Dow said the latest arrival figures from the US Department of Commerce showed global visitor numbers to the US grew by 3.5% in 2018, reaching almost 80 million compared with nearly 77 million in 2017.
“That might sound very good, but global travel last year grew by 7%,” said Dow. “This means the US is still falling behind the competition to attract international visitors. And it means we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
The US’s share of the global travel market dropped from 13.7% in 2015 to just 11.7% in 2018, which Dow said represented “a huge number of visitors and tens of thousands of jobs”.
“That’s why we need Brand USA reauthorised this year,” he said, referring to the fact the marketing organisation needs reapproval every five years and is currently only authorised until 2020.
increase in US arrivals from the UK in 2018
number of UK arrivals in 2018
number of UK arrivals in 2017
“A lot of people would like to lay this at the feet of our president, but we’ve come a long way in helping the administration appreciate and understand what a crucial value travel is to exports and as a job creator for our country.”
Dow revealed he met president Donald Trump late last year together with some of the travel industry’s most prominent chief executives to talk about the importance of travel to the US economy.
The president, he said, was “receptive to the message that travel growth can be achieved without compromising security”, adding a regular dialogue was being maintained with the White House and other parts of the administration.
Preclearance facilities are also being expanded internationally, according to Dow. He said there were currently 15 airports in six countries with US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facilities allowing passengers to clear customs before boarding flights to the US. They include eight in Canada and two in Ireland – Dublin and Shannon.
“Sweden and the Dominican Republic are among countries that recently signed agreements to have preclearance sites,” said Dow. “We are also supporting CBP’s efforts to have these sites in countries such as the UK, Japan and Colombia.”
Dow, though, said he could not yet specify when the UK facilities might open. Conversations are ongoing.