Trends in International Travelers Vacationing in U.S.
By Kevin Williams Vice President of Distribution, TravelWorm | September 02, 2010
The U.S. has grown accustomed to being a top destination in international travel, but recent data shows that the number of foreign travelers visiting the country is declining. Although this year showed a slight increase in foreign travel to US markets, it is not enough to offset the sharp losses we experienced after September 11th. While the travel industry is making small progress, greater initiative is needed to revive our status in the international community. With the domestic economy faltering, the travel industry should be more aggressive in exploiting the dollar weakness to its advantage and bringing more foreign money to American shores.
The advantages to having foreign tourists are manifold. Foreign tourists make up a significant percentage of tourism revenue and can buoy struggling markets, especially in times of decreased domestic consumer spending. Foreign visitors tend to stay longer and spend more - two factors that greatly influence the bottom line.
Unfortunately, the dismal state of U.S. air travel, as well as heightened security measures at airports and other entry points, only adds to the problem. Travelers to the U.S. face a level of scrutiny that can understandably turn off visitors. Intense safety procedures, perceived intimidation, and a lengthy and bureaucratic visa application process all contribute to a feeling of being unwelcome and unwanted. Many overseas travelers, unaccustomed to these new safety measures, fear that a simple mistake in their documentation may lead to detention or deportation. Of course, people who live in the U.S. now realize that this is just par for the course in a post-9/11 world.
Changing tides in global image have also affected global travel trends. It should be no surprise that worldwide perception of the U.S. is not as favorable as it once was. Younger foreign travelers have started to see America as "less cool", and are now opting to visit European or Asian countries instead. Concurrently, these European and Asian travel destinations are also spending a significant amount of money to lure these travelers.
Heightened security and global perception add up to a regrettable mix. In order to counteract these damaging forces, various organizations have committed themselves to reforming America's image. The Discover America Partnership, for instance, has backed a bill detailing a nationally coordinated tourism effort, which was introduced to Congress in September.
In the meantime, while there is little we can do about government policy, we can try to make the U.S. travel experience seem like a better buy. External factors like the depreciated dollar can be emphasized to make U.S. travel more attractive financially. The second step is to highlight the intrinsic value of visiting the U.S. We have to show visitors from overseas that the beauty in this country is absolutely worth whatever hassle they may face, and key to that is successful marketing.