USA spotlight – encouraging signs of growth as travel spend increases by 5%. Air travel also continues to grow for the fourth consecutive week, but regions are recovering at different paces

24 August, 2020

The growth of travel in the US continues to gather momentum with travel spend increasing by a further +5% in the week ending 15-Aug-2020. This is the fifth consecutive week of growth in travel spend and takes the amount up to USD12.9 billion, although that's still -44% below 2019 levels, according to the latest report issued by Tourism Economics for the US Travel Association.

Since the beginning of Mar-2020, the pandemic has resulted in nearly USD341 billion in losses for the US travel economy. The first half of Aug-2020 has seen USD22 billion in travel spending losses, putting the month on pace for USD46 billion, which would mark a +10% improvement over Jul-2020 and the best result since the pandemic began.

Air travel is also up with TSA screenings rising for a fourth week, up +5% over the previous week. The seven day average up to 18-Aug-2020 is now at 718,000, a +1.8% increase over last week, with a peak seen on Sunday 16-Aug-2020 of 863,000. TSA screenings are still -71% below last year's levels for the same period.

Car travel remains more or less level and just -0.5% below pre-pandemic levels recorded in Feb-2020. However that is much lower than would normally be seen for this time of year.

According to Adara's Traveler Trends Tracker, domestic air and hotel bookings rose by +7.3% last week although with vast regional differences. Domestic bookings to Wyoming (-4%) and Montana (-5%) exhibited by far the lowest year on year declines and performed significantly better than last week.

Domestic bookings to New York (-82%), Hawaii (-78%) and Massachusetts (-76%) once again saw the highest declines, although showing a little improvement on last week. International bookings for future travel to the US increased by +6%, but that is still down -76% year on year.

Regional cumulative travel spend losses since the beginning of the pandemic have totalled USD68.6 billion for the Northeast, USD53.0 billion for the Midwest, USD115.3 billion for the South, and USD103.5 billion for the West.

The numbers of states and territories experiencing travel spend losses exceeding -50% fell from nine to seven this week, with notable improvements from both Alaska and Nevada. The number of states posting weekly losses of less than -40% increased from 28 states to 31 states, of which, ten states have reached weekly losses of less than -30%.

According to the Tourism Economics report, the Northeast and the Pacific continue to trail the rest of the country in the travel recovery process. Connecticut and New Hampshire are the only states within these regions that are ranked among the 20 best-performing markets. New York, having seen travel spend shrink -7% over the prior four weeks, has finally seen a +9% increase.

According to Destination Analysts research, less Americans are feeling the pandemic will worsen next month. While 57% of Americans still do not want visitors in their communities just yet, this is the lowest level since the week of 15-Jun-2020. Also for the first time since the week of 29-Jun-2020 the percentage saying they would be happy to see an advert promoting tourism to their community has risen above 50%.

Regarding air travel, approximately 30% of respondents said they would consider taking a flight next month, although half of this group say they would still be nervous, with the behaviour of other passengers the issue that most concerns them. Just over 62% of respondents said they approve of travel restrictions taken by certain states to curb the transmission of the virus.

These are encouraging signs with various regions clearly showing more signs of recovery than others. It can only be hoped that this trend continues and more states start to show an increase in growth momentum.