International tourism to the U.S. shrank for most of 2017 compared with the previous year, according to the U.S. Travel Association (USTA). And the USTA’s Leading Travel Index reported in September that inbound international travel was expected to continue declining through early 2018 (the most recent data as of press time). However, keeping track of international-travel patterns, as well as key inbound markets, can point resorts to opportunities for ownership and exchange.
Dave Huether, senior vice president for research at USTA, says the changing value of the U.S. dollar might provide incentive for foreign inbound travelers. From January through August 2017, the U.S. dollar lost 9 to 13 percent of its value against the euro, Mexican peso and Australian dollar and declined more moderately against the British pound, Chinese yuan, Japanese yen, Brazilian real and Canadian dollar, Reuters reported in August 2017. Since international travelers tend to book months in advance, the dollar’s loss may be a gain for inbound tourism. But keep in mind that exchange rates can fluctuate daily.
Because it’s difficult to predict the year ahead, Huether advises focusing on key source markets. “Looking at our forecast, I think there will be an improvement with economic growth from our major source markets,” Huether says. Those markets include China, Canada, Mexico, Japan, the U.K. and Western Europe. To attract these countries’ travelers, resorts can focus on travel windows around major location-specific holidays. For example, Golden Week is a busy travel period in Japan—the Japan Travel Bureau estimated that 564,000 Japanese went abroad for the holiday in 2016. Having online materials in languages other than English can also attract international travelers, and providing translations at the resort can help ensure a positive stay.
Chinese travelers may be particularly appealing to resorts because of their number and spending habits. In April 2017, the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) estimated that 135 million Chinese traveled outside of China in 2016, establishing the country as the world’s largest source market for inbound travel for the fifth consecutive year.
Huether recommends that resorts also reach out to growing source markets, such as Brazil. According to the USTA, the U.S. is the number one international destination for Brazilians, drawing 22 percent of the country’s outbound travel. Many Brazilians do their shopping Stateside. “In recent years, it cost less to purchase items in the U.S. than it did in Brazil, between tariffs and taxes,” Huether says. Since so many factors are at play—the economy in the U.S. and political developments are among the components that can affect inbound travel to the U.S.—this dual approach of catering to growing markets as well as travel powerhouses may increase resorts’ chances for success.
Image credit: Alamy