Monday, 22 August 2011

U.S. Travel: Overseas visitor spending driving growth


U.S. Travel: Overseas visitor spending driving growth

By Danny King
The travel industry accounted for more than one in nine jobs created in the U.S. economy through the first seven months of the year, as increased spending from overseas travelers and a relatively weak dollar contributed to the rebound in tourism spending.

Through July, the travel industry added 106,000 jobs, or more than 11% of the U.S. jobs created year to date, according to the U.S. Travel Association. The travel industry accounts for about 7.5 million workers, down from an all-time high of about 7.8 million in 1999 and 2000.

“International activity for the first four or five months of the year grew at a fairly robust pace,” said Dave Huether, senior vice president of research at U.S. Travel.

Huether estimated that inbound travelers account for about a third of all tourism spending.

That the growth is largely from overseas travelers is good for the industry because the typical overseas tourist spends about $4,000 per trip, according to U.S. Travel, which estimates that every $1 million in travel spending creates more than 10 jobs.

That growth might mask issues within the U.S. economy that could bring headwinds to tourism spending stemming from lower discretionary income from potential domestic travelers.

Last month, the U.S. unemployment rate fell slightly to 9.1% from 9.2% in June, while the number of unemployed workers stood at 13.9 million, down from 14.1 million in June, the U.S. Labor Department said earlier this month. July 2010’s unemployment rate was 9.5%.

What that means for job growth within the travel industry remains a question. But Huether said the data still suggested the industry might approach its 1999-2000 peak next year if the overall job numbers continue their gradual improvement.