For the first time since the global financial crisis, travel to the US is falling. According to the US International Trade Administration, the number of visits by foreigners fell 2.4% in 2016. The last annual decline was in 2009, when the global economy was mired in high unemployment and sovereign debt crises.
The decline presents a headwind to the US economy and to the Trump administration’s goals to narrow the US trade balance. Inbound tourism is counted as an export. While interest in traveling to the US was seen to drop following the US presidential election in November, these data show that a decline in travel was already brewing.
Much of the decline can be attributed to fewer Canadians visiting the US, a multi-year trend. Of the 1.8 million fewer visits between 2015 and 2016, 1.4 million were fewer Canadian visits. Visits from Mexico increased slightly over the same period.
Other large declines came from Brazil, the UK, Germany, and Japan. These were partially offset by growth in the number of Chinese, South Korean, and Argentine travelers to the US.