✈️ US Awaits Foreign Travel Return

Unpacking The Post-Pandemic Trends


Welcome back to another edition of Trendline

Today we are looking at International travel – specifically its state in US since the pandemic.

Lets dive in!

Chart of the week

Made using Vizzlo

Travel is a huge contributor to the US economy.

Spending from direct travel was almost $1.2 Trillion in 2022, and the industry employed 8 million Americans (LINK)

However, while the industry is recovering well from the sledgehammer impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, there are some segments which need more attention.

One of them is International travelers/visitors – people coming from overseas to the US (either for leisure or business travel reasons).

As seen in the chart above – in 2019, in the first 7 months of the years, ~45million international visitors came to the US. This figure took a big hit in 2020 and 2021 due to lockdowns and travel restrictions. However, even 3 years after, International visitors are still ~19% below 2019 levels (or 8.4 million fewer visitors) – Note that this is comparing year to date (YTD) figures from Jan-July

Looking at breakdown by source countries, we see some interesting implications:

  • Unequal recovery from neighbors: In 2023 so far, 2% more visitors arrived from Canada compared to 2019, but Mexican visitors are still 25% below 2019 levels
  • Long haul travel from Asia is recovering slowly: Travel from key Asian countries is still significantly below (45%) 2019 levels – esp. for China, South Korea and Japan. China was the last major country to reopen fully from Covid-19, so expect foreign travel from Chinese tourists to increase significantly in 2024
  • European visitors are yet to come back fully: Europeans (esp. Western Europeans) travel a lot. However, W. European visitors to the US are still 25% below 2019 levels. This is also partially impacted by the general increase in preference among Europeans to travel within the continent.

Its also likely that the macro economic uncertainty and the heightened inflation has played a role in the slower recovery we see in the numbers above.

It will be interesting to see how long does it take for International travel to return back fully to the pre-pandemic level in the US – esp. given its importance to the US economy

That’s all for this week. Thanks for reading! 👋


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