The Travel Industry Association of America (TIA) has a cautiously optimistic outlook for 2004 and beyond, anticipating a 4.4% increase in overall travel spending by domestic and international visitors next year.
That level of increase would raise total travel spending up to $568 billion, from the forecasted $544 billion this year. Still, it won’t be until 2005 that the level of spending—forecasted to reach $594 billion—will finally surpass the record set in 2000.
One of the hardest-hit segments in the travel industry, international inbound travel to the U.S., once again will see year-over-year declines in 2003 of 4%. However, the outlook for foreign visits to the U.S., an important segment to the North American RV rental business, is more positive for 2004 and 2005, according to the TIA.
After falling steadily for three years, international inbound arrivals to the U.S. are forecast to increase 5% annually in both 2004 and 2005. That translates to more than 42 million international arrivals in 2004 and more than 44 million in 2005. However, the numbers are well below the high of 51 million arrivals in 2000.
International traveler spending in the U.S. is forecast to increase 5.5% in 2004, to more than $69 billion, and increase nearly 8% in 2005 to $75 billion. Once again, these spending levels are well below the $82 billion spent by international travelers in 2000.
Domestic leisure travel has slowly but steadily increased over the years, despite the aftermath of 9/11, the lagging economy and the war in Iraq. TIA is forecasting leisure travel volume to grow 3.2% in 2004, up from a predicted 2.8% annual increase this year. It will increase once again in 2005 by nearly 2%, the TIA believes.
“Leisure travel has been the bright star in a relatively dim travel constellation. However, Americans have remained reluctant to commit, so last-minute planning and booking will continue to be the norm,” according to Suzanne Cook, TIA’s senior vice president of research. “We expect that the increased preferences for domestic travel, close-to-home destinations and highway travel. will continue, although I think as time goes on Americans will begin to go back to their more traditional travel patterns.”
Preferences for domestic travel, close-to-home destinations and highway travel all favor RV travel.