International travelers to the U.S. spent 3.3 percent less through November of 2017 than at the same point the previous year, according to the November International Trade report released Friday by the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis.
The 3.3 percent spending drop translates to losses of $4.6 billion spent in the U.S. economy and 40,000 jobs.
Travel had outperformed overall U.S. export growth during the prior five years; the industry generated an $87 billion trade surplus in 2016, without which the U.S. trade deficit that year would have been 17 percent higher. Overall, the U.S. travel industry supports 15.3 million un-exportable American jobs.
“For our country to have any hope of closing the trade gap, international inbound travel must perform, simple as that,” said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow. “After almost a decade and a half of relatively sustained post-9/11 recovery, since 2015 there’s been evidence that the country has gotten complacent with the policies needed to support this vital economic engine and job creator.”
The Commerce Department report continues a troubling data trend for the travel industry ahead of the Jan. 16 formal launch of the Visit U.S. Coalition. Visit U.S., of which U.S. Travel is a founding member, will bring together a broad cross-section of industries whose goal is to partner with the Trump administration to address the decline in international visitation.
The Visit U.S. launch next Tuesday will include fresh data showing the U.S. has been falling behind the rest of the world in competing for lucrative overseas travelers since before President Trump took office.
“Flourishing international travel is vital to President Trump’s economic goal of sustained three percent GDP growth, and the Visit U.S. coalition is being founded for the express purpose of helping him achieve it,” said Dow. “Our guiding principle is that we can have strong national security and still welcome legitimate international visitors. We can do both—and, in fact, without effective security there can be no travel, as we witnessed after September 11, 2001.”