U.S. Travel research presents December 2016’s findings

Published on : Monday, January 2, 2017

ustaU.S. Travel research team presents a sampling of December 2016’s most compelling findings. Each month, the U.S. Travel Association sends its members the U.S. Travel Outlook, which provides insight into the current state of the economy and related travel industry trends, plus other relevant data and information on the travel and tourism sector.



As 2016 Winds Down, American Consumer Confidence Is Up—Way Up


American consumer confidence reached a nine-year high in November, according to the Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index. More remarkable was the fact that all of the various consumer confidence measures moved decisively upward in November, which, according to experts, means that Americans might legitimately have felt better about the economy going into the holiday shopping season. The University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment Index, which rose to a seven-year high in November, tracked this optimism into early December.



This confidence is likely buoyed by the lowest unemployment rate since August 2007. November’s jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that total nonfarm employment increased by 178,000, and the overall unemployment rate declined to 4.6 percent. The travel industry added 6,600 jobs in November, the highest monthly gain since July 2016. As a cautionary note, though, U.S. Travel’s latest Travel Trends Index report predicts tempered growth prospects in all travel sectors, a sign of global economic instability and potential domestic softening to come.



How Is America Competing for International Travel?


According to the latest U.S. Travel Barometer, the United States’ share of international lodging searches dipped to 10.7 percent in November, its lowest share since October 2014. This decline comes on the heels of two months (August and September) when the U.S. enjoyed a particularly high share of international travel interest. The U.S. is still by far the top long haul travel destination internationally, but this waning in interest may be more indicative of an impending slowdown in international arrivals.



America’s Mideast and Southeast (which include New York, Washington, D.C. and Florida) remained the top two most-searched regions by international travellers. They captured an even larger share of searches in November, at 33 and 31 percent, respectively. The share captured by the Far West (which includes California, Alaska and Hawaii) also slightly increased, while interest shifted away from the Southwest (which includes Texas, Arizona and New Mexico).



Meanwhile, Are More American Travellers Setting Their Sights Abroad?


According to November’s U.S. Travel Barometer, the share of U.S. residents interested in travelling domestically fell below 70 percent for the first time since May 2015. This may mean that Americans who are planning travel in the near future may be setting their sights overseas in larger numbers. The shift in interest away from the U.S. may be driven by the dollar’s continued appreciation in November, which makes travel abroad more attractive and affordable for U.S. residents.



What of all that talk of a record number of holiday travellers this year? That projection still holds, since these searches largely reflect travel plans that are, on average, about 60 to 90 days away.



Of all U.S. regions searched by U.S. residents, the Southeast and the Far West captured the largest share of searches in November, accounting for 35 percent and 23 percent respectively. Compared to the same month a year earlier, the Southeast also posted the largest gain in share of domestic searches, followed by the Plains and the Southwest—particularly impressive, given this year’s news coverage of local Zika cases in Florida.


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