Economic slump derails America’s tourism boom


BERLIN (eTN) – The global economic recession arrived on the US tourism scene in September 2008 like an abrupt cold-weather front. The big chill will continue to bite at US outbound travel harder than inbound travel throughout 2009.

These are the conclusions of IPK International, which will release extensive details on America’s inbound and outbound travel performance during the ITB Future Day, March 11, at ITB Berlin, the world’s premier travel show.

According to the upcoming ITB World Travel Trends Report 2009, tourist arrivals growth into the USA was running at 8 percent until August 2008. September was flat. While final figures are still being collated, the report says declining arrivals in Q4 will drag America’s overall performance for 2008 down from 8 percent to 6 percent.

“A figure of 6 percent is well above the world average,” said Dr. Martin Buck, director of the Competence Center Travel & Logistics at Messe Berlin, which commissions the ITB World Travel Trends Report. “However, the abrupt change is worrying as it tells the US travel industry what to expect in early 2009. Weak demand from foreign markets seems likely to continue, especially if the dollar stays strong.”

According to official US data, before the abrupt Q4 2008 global economic downturn, European arrivals into America had been surging ahead at an average of 17 percent, led by Spain (+36 percent), Italy (+29 percent), France (+28 percent), the Netherlands (+26 percent) and Germany (+20 percent).

Travel from Asia to the USA, however, stagnated in 2008, attributable in large part to a 6 percent decline in travelers from Japan, the USA’s largest market in Asia.

The contraction in American outbound travel has been even more severe. Despite a strong start to 2008, growth in US outbound travel slowed fairly dramatically in March, and turned negative in June, the beginning of the outbound slump. By September, the monthly decline was over 7 percent. The freeze had set in.

As Americans reduce their travel, Europeans are being hit the hardest, according to Dr. Buck.

“Europe and other destinations dependent on traveling Americans need to go on alert and adjust their strategies,” he said. “What we’re seeing in the ITB World Travel Trends Report is a continued decline in American consumer and business confidence combined with higher unemployment and lower disposable incomes – despite the otherwise positive Obama effect.”

Dr. Buck added, “Americans seem likely to trade down in terms of destination choice and type of trip. Business travel, especially travel for meetings and conventions, is the new weakest link.”

He said that for leisure travel, the new preference among Americans is to take shorter trips closer to home. “The destination is almost irrelevant,” said Dr. Buck. “It simply depends on the overall deal available.”

ITB Berlin and ITB Berlin Convention

ITB Berlin 2009 will be taking place from Wednesday, March 11 to Sunday, March 15 and will be open to trade visitors from Wednesday to Friday. Parallel with the trade fair, the ITB Berlin Convention will be taking place from Wednesday, March 11 to Saturday, March 14, 2009. For full program details, click on .

Fachhochschule Worms and the US-based market research company PhoCusWright, Inc. are partners of the ITB Berlin Convention. Turkey is co-hosting this year’s ITB Berlin Convention. Other sponsors of the ITB Berlin Convention include Top Alliance, responsible for VIP service;, as media partner of the ITB Hospitality Day; and Flug Revue as media partner of the ITB Aviation Day. The Planeterra Foundation is the premium sponsor of the ITB Corporate Social Responsibility Day, and Gebeco is the premium sponsor of the ITB Tourism and Culture Day. TÜV Rheinand Group is the basic sponsor of the session “Practical Aspects of CSR.” The following are partners collaborating with the ITB Business Travel Days: Air Berlin PLC & Co. Luftverkehrs KG, Verband Deutsches Reisemanagement e.V. (VDR), Vereinigung Deutscher Veranstaltungsorganisatoren e.V., HSMA Deutschland e.V., Deutsche Bahn AG,,, Kerstin Schaefer e.K. – Mobility Services and Intergerma. Air Berlin is the premium sponsor of the ITB Business Travel Days 2009.