Domestic business travel growth moderates, int’l inbound travel accelerates
The U.S. Travel Association released its biannual forecast for travel to and within the United States through 2026, showing a normalized rate of growth in the domestic leisure travel sector after months of elevated demand.
“Robust domestic leisure travel demand has been the driving force in the overall industry’s post-pandemic come back,” said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Geoff Freeman. “Though the surge we experienced in the last year is starting to moderate, we expect this segment to remain resilient in coming quarters.”
Domestic Leisure Travel
Domestic leisure travel is expected to remain strong but with normalized rates of growth (around 2%) in 2023 and 2024. Volume is expected to grow faster year-over-year (YOY) than inflation-adjusted spending in 2024 and beyond.
Domestic Business Travel
Both volume and spending in domestic business travel is expected to grow—albeit more slowly—largely due to economic conditions. While business travel will continue recovering, with both volume and spending at double-digit growth in 2023, it is expected that growth in inflation-adjusted spending will be slower than volume in 2024 and beyond.
Business travel volume is not expected to recover to 2019 levels until 2025, while inflation-adjusted spending is not expected to recover within the range of the forecast.
International Inbound Travel
The inbound travel forecast was upgraded due to strong demand from the Canadian market, as well as stronger expectations from key overseas markets such as Brazil. Year-over-year, inbound travel volume is projected to grow 31% in 2023 and 18% in 2024, while inflation-adjusted spending is projected to grow 34% in 2023 and 19% in 2024.
Volume in this sector is projected to recover by 2025, while inflation-adjusted spending will not recover until 2026.
Policies to Grow Travel
U.S. Travel Association cites four key federal policy areas to accelerate growth across travel sectors:
Improve the overall air travel experience through the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill
Lower U.S. visitor visa interview wait times, which currently exceed an average of 500 days in top visa-requiring inbound markets
Reduce Customs wait times at U.S. airports and other ports of entry experiencing excessive delays
Increase federal prioritization and focus on travel industry growth, as other countries have done
“Travel is essential to growing the U.S. economy and workforce, so the federal government must enact policies to ensure our industry is able to meet demand in coming years,” said Freeman.