U.S. Travel forecasts moderate growth

By Johanna Jainchill
Travel will continue to set records in 2013, but the growth rate will decelerate, according to a U.S. Travel Association forecast.

During a conference call with the media on Nov. 1, David Huether, senior vice president of research and economics for U.S. Travel, said that the number of domestic trips taken in 2013 is expected to increase to a record high but that growth will be slower than over the past few years.

U.S. Travel predicts that in 2013 the number of trips will increase by an additional 23 million trips for a 1.1% growth rate, down from the 1.8% increase in 2012.

Huether said this year’s increase will boost the number of domestic trips taken by about 36 million, to 2.04 billion, a 1.8% increase over 2011, which was an all-time high. That number is 1.5% better than the prior peak, reached in 2007.

Huether said the growth slowdown projected for 2013 is mostly because travel growth rate over the past few years has been so strong, even better than it was during the early 2000s.

“A 1.1% growth is faster than what we saw from 2003 to 2007, right before the recession,” he said. “I’d classify it as more moderate growth. In general, it’s still a fairly healthy pace.”

Huether also blamed the predicted slowdown on the negative factors affecting the economy.

Breaking down types of travel, Huether said that leisure travel is expected to rise 2% in 2012, while business travel will grow at a slower rate of about 1.3%.

In terms of spending, U.S. Travel expects travel spending this year to grow by 4.7%, to about $852 billion. That figure is also expected to grow at a slightly slower pace in 2013, or about 3.6%, to $882 billion.

Most of the spending slowdown will be by U.S. residents, Huether said, which will slow to about 3% growth. However, international spending is forecast to grow more than 7%, and will continue to outgrow domestic spending over the next decade.

“International spending will become more and more important to the travel industry going forward,” he said.

By 2014, international travel spending is expected to account for 15.1% of total travel spending, up from the 14.6% forecasted this year and more than 15% in 2013.

With respect to travel industry employment, Huether said the industry is expected to add about 100,000 jobs in 2013, reaching a total of about 7.6 million travel industry workers.

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