International Travel – Summer 2008 Statistics

Castle District, Prague, Czech Republic

I periodically see travel industry claims for hotel prospects staying bright with all the international visitors to the USA taking advantage of the great exchange rate for US Dollars.

The Global Insight report for AAA from February 2008, along with government statistics for Jan-Feb 2008 indicates more Americans are traveling to Europe for 2008.

I have my doubts that the final data will show increased travel for summer 2008 to overseas destinations and I will be looking for the data to see what Summer 2008 travel ultimately turns out to be. The on-the-street reality I see and hear are more families being hurt financially and somewhat mentally by the increased pressures of rising costs and bills. These past two years have shown the resident consumer in the USA particularly acute expenditure rises in gasoline, utilities, and medical/auto/other insurances compounding the noticeable increase in food stuffs. Along with a decline in house prices and perceived wealth coinciding with increased travel costs for airline tickets, even tickets using miles, and hotel rooms, makes the cost of overseas travel an avoidable luxury in 2008 for many in the economic squeeze.

European travel should be a good indicator of the American economy. As the data comes in for European travel for 2008, we will see if travel abroad is truly resilient in the face of poor economic conditions. I hope Americans can still find their way to travel overseas in 2008 and 2009. I’m frightened to think that we were a privileged generation who enjoyed travel and seeing the world for leisure. Future years may find more meaning to the US military slogan “Join and See the World”.

6,000,000 Americans to travel to Europe this summer according to AAA. The increase in travel to Europe is about 300,000 travelers over 2007. We will see.

While I was gathering research on international travel, I uncovered some interesting data on the USA traveler going overseas. Overseas is defined as all international countries outside the USA, Canada, and Mexico.

Fascinating to me is the statistic that only 7% of USA travelers who went overseas in 2005 were first-time overseas travelers. So, 13 of 14 US travelers who went overseas in 2005 had traveled overseas previously. People traveling for leisure vacations or to visit family and friends accounted for 83% of international trips overseas. The AAA 2008 report cites 82% of international travel is leisure so the proportion of leisure to business travel is steady over the past few years.

In 2005 28.8 million USA resident travelers went overseas.
24.0 million travelers went overseas for leisure or to visit family and friends (83%).

61% of US leisure travelers overseas stayed in hotels
Average number of hotel nights = 9
Median number = 7

[Ric’s calculation: Among leisure travelers, half of people staying in hotels are spending a week or less and half a week or more while traveling Europe.
24 million travelers x 0.61 stay in hotels x 9 nights = 146,000,000 room nights.
Assume some travelers stay together, so perhaps 100 million room nights from US travelers. Assume $100/night and about 10 billion dollars in international room bookings from Americans traveling overseas.]

Where do Americans Travel?
(2005 based on US Department of Commerce, Office of Travel and Tourism Industries government data)
80% visited just one country outside USA
13% visited two countries
7% visited three of more countries

42% of leisure travelers went to Europe or about 10 million travelers in 2005.
Fewer than 10% of these travelers ventured to Eastern Europe.

UK 12% (2,900,000 US travelers in 2005)

France 8% (2,000,000)

Italy 8% (2,000,000)

Germany 6% (1,500,000)

Spain 4% (1,000,000)

Netherlands 3% (750,000)

Ireland 3% (750,000)

Switzerland 2% (500,000)

Austria 2% (500,000)

Eastern Europe 4% (1,000,000)

19% Asia (4,500,000)

20% Caribbean (4,800,000)

14% Central and South America (3,400,000)

4% Middle East (1,000,000)

3% Oceania (750,000)

2% Africa (500,000)

Observations from the data: Fewer than 500,000 American visitors to Africa for 2005 and less than 750,000 US visitors to Oceania which includes Australia, New Zealand and Pacific Islands such as Tahiti and Fiji. For the first time in Australia, the country expects to see more of their residents travel out of the country than tourists coming in to Australia in 2008. Australians are being urged to take “staycations”.

International Visitors from Overseas to the USA (excludes Canadians and Mexicans)

Ric’s note: These are the visitors who are supposed to save our hotel industry as prices rise, occupancy drops, and American leisure and business travel declines over next year.

2000 26,000,000
2002 19,000,000
2003 18,000,000
2004 20,000,000
2005 21,700,000
2006 21,700,000
No increase in international travel arrivals from overseas for 2006 over 2005.
(16,000,000 Canadians and 13,000,000 Mexicans also visited the USA in 2006.)

Where do foreign visitors to the USA come from?
2004 data for Country of Residency for 20,000,000 visitors to the USA (countries with at least 200,000 visitors are listed and account for 80% of all overseas visitors to the USA (excludes Canadians and Mexicans).

8.5 million visitors came from 9 European countries.
42% of visitors to USA are from major European countries which is about the same percentage of Americans traveling to these countries overseas when traveling to Europe.

UK 4,300,000 (21.5% of all overseas visitors to USA in 2004)
The news I have read over the past couple years indicates the British are just as screwed as Americans in their finances with home prices and high debt.

Japan 3,750,000 (18.8%) Japanese tourism has been declining over past two years

Germany 1,320,000 (6.6%)

France 775,000 (3.9%)

S. Korea 625,000 (3.1%)

Australia 520,000 (2.6%)

Italy 470,000 (2.4%)

Netherlands 425,000 (2.1%)

Brazil 385,000 (1.9%)

Ireland 345,000 (1.7%)

Spain 335,000 (1.7%)

Venezuela 330,000 (1.6%)

China 325,000 (1.6%)
China, PRC 200,000
Hong Kong 125,000

India 310,000 (1.6%)

Taiwan 300,000 (1.5%)

Colombia 295,000 (1.5%)

Israel 275,000 (1.4%)

Bahamas 265,000 (1.3%)

Sweden 255,000 (1.3%)

Switzerland 245,000 (1.2 %)

79.3% of all US visitors from overseas in 2004 came from the countries listed above.

US Visitors to Overseas
2005 28,800,000 (leisure travelers are 83% of total travelers)
2006 30,150,000 (5% increase and appears mostly due to Caribbean travel increases for Jamaica and the Bahamas)

Ipsos Public Affairs Survey conducted on behalf of Access America Travel Insurance and Assistance in April 2008 shows a less optimistic summer 2008 travel season.
Only 33% of Americans surveyed planned to take a summer vacation in 2008.
Only 57% of Americans who took a summer vacation in 2007 planned to take one in 2008 and economic conditions are cited as primary factor for no vacation in summer 2008.

American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) Summer Hot Spots research data (Feb 2008) shows Europe had 6 of top 10 “International Hot Cities” in 2007.
London (#1 = 12.3%),
Rome (#2 = 9.9%),
Paris (# 4 = 7.0%),
Florence (# 7 = 1.2%),
Venice (#9 = 1.1%),
Frankfurt (#10 = 0.8%)
These 6 European cities comprised 32.3% of travel Hot Spot Cities in 2007.

2008 Data
London (#1= 10.9%),
Rome (#2 = 9.0%),
Paris (#4 = 6.4%),
Venice (#7 = 1.4%),
Barcelona (#8 = 1.1%)
Five European cities in 2008 in Top 10 accounted for 28.8% of ASTA responses. This represented a 3.5% decline in major European cities in Top 10 from 2007.

Obviously there is interest in several other cities not in the Top 10 since the Top 10 Cities only add up to 43% of travel responses, but then again 43% of all responses from travel agents indicates nearly half of international travel from the USA focuses on just 10 of the world’s major cities.

The data from this ASTA report in February for advance bookings shows travel declining overall and Europe Hot Spots down nearly 10% over two years from 2006 to 2008.

Honolulu and NYC are way down in interest for this ASTA survey for 2008 compared to 2007. That tells me people were holding off and waiting to see how the economy played out in the spring of this year. And for most people it turned way down in the months between January and June 2008 as household inflation jumped with fuel prices and food increases.

Let the economically advantaged Europeans and international tourists have New York. Most Americans are looking for a bargain this summer. $477 room rates – Please.

About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined BoardingArea.com in 2008.

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