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Travel and Tourism in the US to 2017
Published at 2014-01-15 08:28:30

The US has a diverse geographical landscape and a large cultural diversity, which attract a large number of domestic and international leisure tourists.

The global economic downturn led to a deceleration in growth in the US travel and tourism sector in 2009, with a 3.30% decline in domestic tourist volumes and a 5.27% decline in inbound tourist volumes. However, economic recovery in 2010 resulted in a return to growth in both markets, enabling the sector to register positive growth between 2008 and 2012. Stable economic growth, increasing business activities, increased government expenditure on tourism and initiatives to promote tourism will be key growth drivers over the next five years.

The US has a diverse geographical landscape and a large cultural diversity, which attract a large number of domestic and international leisure tourists. In addition to that, the country also offers more than 50 national parks, along with many monuments and museums. The US also attracts a lot of travelers to places such as Las Vegas due to the well developed gambling industry. In 2012, the total number of leisure trips taken by domestic and international tourists in the US reached 1.5 billion. Apart from being a leading leisure tourist destination in the world, the country is also a leading business destination due to its strong position in global economics and trade.

The US is the global hub for the airline industry. The country’s transportation market is well developed and can handle large volumes of seasonal and regular transport activity. The US also has a well developed system of interstate highways, sea ports and airport facilities.

However, domestic travel by US citizens has been subdued due to difficult economic conditions since 2008. A large majority of the country’s working population has suffered salary cuts, and many have lost their jobs. However, the unemployment rate, which has remained in the range of 8-10% since 2009, is expected to fall to 6.4% by 2016.

Visa restrictions and tightened security measures following terrorism attacks in the country in 2001 are major constraints for international visitors wanting to enter the country. Visa restrictions preventing the entry of immigrant workers have also limited inbound business tourists. The US’s dependence on road and air transport is cause for concern as fuel costs around the world continue to rise. The country’s railroads are also underdeveloped when compared to European countries.

The rising cost of fuel is a major concern for all categories in the US travel and tourism sector. Crude oil prices have steadily increased since 2002, and have remained around US$100 per barrel due to geo-political and economic factors. A continued increase in fuel prices could damage the profitability of airline and road transport service providers in the country. The high costs associated with travelling are also expected to impede growth in inbound tourism, specifically from the Asia-Pacific region.

The US’s failure to rebuild its aging transport infrastructure is threatening the growth of tourism. Economists have judged the state of roads, railways, ports and air transport infrastructure in the US to be mediocre when compared to transport infrastructure in European countries.  The absence of a high-speed rail system indicates the country’s poor transport infrastructure.

The strengthening of the US dollar against weaker currencies also adversely impacts tourism, leading to a change in preference for cheaper destinations such as Africa and Asia-Pacific. For example, increases in the US dollar have made it difficult for educational and medical tourists from India and Brazil to travel to the US.

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