Things aren't getting any worse, but neither are they getting any better – US travel and spend plateaus although car usage is on the rise

28 July, 2020

The general travel trend in US had been slowly increasing but now everything has stalled with travel and spend now plateaued with no change from last week. There was a definite increase for the 04-Jul-2020 holiday weekend but with new surges of Covid-19 being seen across the country, travel has seemingly stopped growing.

According to the latest report issued by Tourism Economics for the US Travel Association, the week ending 18-Jul-2020 saw no change in travel spend, at USD11.5 billion, although looking back it is up 9% compared to four weeks ago.

There had been a decrease in car travel but that's back on the rise, with road travel up 3% for the week ending 20-Jul-2020 compared to the previous week. According to Arrivalist's Daily Travel Index, car travel is now just 1.3% below pre-pandemic levels as recorded in Feb-2020.

Air travel remains largely unchanged week on week, with 662,000 TSA screenings for the seven day average for the week ending 20-Jul-2020, 1.4% lower than the previous two weeks which were at 672,000. Compared to 2019 air travel is 75% below the same period last year.

The travel economy is 51% below last year's levels for the week ending 18-Jul-2020, registering a USD12.0 billion loss when compared to the same week a year ago.

Looking at a regional level, weekly travel spend losses across the various regions for the week ending 18-Jul-2020 continues to increase to varying degrees with the exception of the South which saw a slight improvement to USD3.9billion. In the Northeast the loss remained at USD2.6 billion, the Midwest saw a slight increase in loss to USD1.8 billion and the West increased to USD3.8 billion.

Over the past 20 weeks, cumulative losses have reach USD59.2 billion for the Northeast, USD46.5 billion for the Midwest, USD101.3 billion for the South, and USD90.0 billion for the West.

The District of Colombia and Hawaii have been joined by New York to record over 70% declines year over year in travel spend with the number of states seeing weekly losses of less than 40% now down to 12 from 15 a week ago. The best performing states are mostly those without large urban centres, including Nebraska, Montana, South Dakota, New Jersey, Wyoming and Iowa.

The report estimates that if this trend continues to the end of 2020 losses of USD505 billion will be recorded for the travel industry, with USD297 billion already lost in the sector.

According to Adara's Traveler Trends Tracker, domestic air and hotel bookings have remained fairly level over the seven days ending 13-Jul-2020. The lowest declines were seen by Wyoming (-15%), South Dakota and Montana (-25%) and Idaho (-30%).

The highest declines in domestic air and hotel bookings for the past week have been seen by New York (-84%), Massachusetts (-81%), Washington DC (-79%), and for the first time California and Navada (both -79%). International bookings remains the same as for last week at -79% down.

Things might not be improving but at least they are holding steady. As we approach August it is likely most travel will be leisure based so all eyes will be keenly watching the September figures to see if things start to improve as people get back to work and whether corporate travel begins once again.