New data released today by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) and its partner ForwardKeys on international flight booking trends, reveals the long-awaited recovery of international traveler spending in the U.S. is finally underway.
According to the research, inbound travelers are returning in droves after the U.S. government dropped the requirement to COVID test before entry.
But while ForwardKeys' data shows bookings increased by 93% during the past six weeks compared to the same period last year, international spending in the U.S. is still lagging other destinations and is not expected to reach pre-pandemic levels until 2025.
"The spike in inbound bookings validates the U.S. government's decision to ease travel restrictions by scrapping testing for visitors and returning U.S. citizens – something other economies did long ago," said Julia Simpson, WTTC President & CEO.
"The year-over-year improvement is promising, but there is still a way to go for travel to the U.S. At the current rate of recovery, international visitor spending will not reach pre-pandemic levels until 2025."
Simpson continued: "This finding echoes our previous study showing the U.S. lagging other countries in international visitors, resulting in a slower-than-expected recovery of international tourism revenue."
WTTC's latest annual Economic Impact Report (EIR) showed 2021 international visitor spending growing only 1.4%, reaching $40.3 billion, but falling far short of 2019's total of $190.9 billion. The report predicts that many countries' Travel & Tourism sectors will bounce back to pre-pandemic numbers next year, but the U.S. is not expected to fully recover until 2025.
Iconic U.S. Cities Remain Popular Destinations
According to latest flight booking data, iconic American cities remain popular destinations for visitors to the U.S., including New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Miami, and Orlando leading the way.
During the past four weeks, there has also been a strong uptick in inbound flight bookings to Ft. Lauderdale, increasing 7% since this time last month.
The top source markets for inbound international travel are Canada, Germany, France, and Brazil. Chile and Japan also recently joined the top origination markets with inbound flight bookings increasing significantly during the past four weeks by 28% and 8%, respectively.
International Outbound Travel Nears Pre-Pandemic Levels
Driven by robust year-over-year growth of 35% compared to 2021, U.S. outbound flight bookings have reached near pre-pandemic levels, falling just 5% short of 2019 bookings.
International destinations such as Canada, Mexico, Dominican Republic, the UK, and Italy top the list for U.S. travelers looking to get away. Joining the top destinations, the Philippines has seen an 8% spike in outbound flight bookings during the last four weeks alone.
Simpson added: "The good news is the Travel & Tourism sector is resilient and sensible border-crossing policies and reduced restrictions are helping to fuel the sector's recovery. But more international travel is key to ensuring the pace and scale of full recovery."
WTTC has been tracking international travel trends for more than 30 years. With the help of knowledge partners such as ForwardKeys, WTTC publishes a number of research reports each year, delving deeper into issues such as the economic contribution of the Travel & Tourism sector, job creation, market growth and more.
To read more about trends in global Travel & Tourism, visit here.
The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) represents the global travel & tourism private sector. Members include 200 CEOs, Chairs and Presidents of the world's leading travel & tourism companies from all geographies covering all industries. For more than 30 years, WTTC has been committed to raising the awareness of governments and the public of the economic and social significance of the travel & tourism sector.
According to WTTC's 2021 Economic Impact Report, during 2020, a year in which it was devasted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Travel & Tourism made a 5.5% contribution to global GDP and was responsible for 272 million jobs.