US Travel Association Predicts Drop in Inbound International Travel

Though there have been no official warnings or restrictions on travel into or out of the United States due to the coronavirus, the Leading Travel Index projects international inbound travel to the U.S. will fall six percent over the next three months due to the virus.

The Leading Travel Index is the predictive component of the U.S. Travel Association's Travel Trends Index (TTI).

The predicted six percent drop compared to the same year-over-year time period in 2019 is the sharpest in the five-year history of the TTI. It would be the largest decline in international inbound travel since the 2007-2008 financial crisis.

"There is a lot of uncertainty around coronavirus, and it is pretty clear that it is having an effect on travel demand—not just from China, and not just internationally, but for domestic business and leisure travel as well,” U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow said in a statement.

The latest TTI captures data from January when awareness of coronavirus began to ramp up and China—one of the biggest travel markets to the U.S.—implemented aggressive measures to curb travel out of certain cities.

U.S. Travel economists caution that the detectable impact from coronavirus is almost certain to escalate once data becomes available for February, when the U.S. functionally restricted inbound travel from China and concern began to take hold in earnest around the world.

“A big part of the coronavirus narrative is about whether it's safe to travel,” Dow said, “but it's important to keep in mind that the restrictions and warnings are highly specific to countries where there have been pronounced outbreaks. Right now there is absolutely no official guidance that people need to be reconsidering travel in the U.S.”

Dow pointed to advice from agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control that the best thing travelers can do is utilize good health practices—wash hands often, cover your cough or sneeze, stay home if you are sick, etc.

"Obviously the traveling public should be exercising caution just as they would for the average flu season," he said. "But for the many of us who have upcoming plans to attend a convention or meeting or go on a family vacation, public health officials have repeatedly said there is no cause to alter those U.S.-based plans at the moment."