Countries, cities in decline, as US travel market slumps

Written by Staff Writer

Patrick Poon has covered international travel for CNN for over a decade, primarily for Money. He contributed this story to CNN Travel’s Understanding the Travel Trends series.

In October 2018, President Donald Trump withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, spurring many companies to avoid the region. Instead, Washington’s trade agenda focused on direct talks with China.

The trend has had a clear impact on a United States tourism industry that has been on the decline for years. And in recent months, USA TODAY has analyzed the market’s difficulties, uncovering trends behind a downward trend in visitor counts and the Trump administration’s perceived impact on visitor behavior.

In the end, Trump’s exclusion from many travel partnerships may be the final straw for some destinations.

What are the top 25 destinations?

North America

For much of the past decade, the United States has seen steady declines in domestic and international visitation. The past year saw the highest decline in domestic arrivals in two decades , leading the large majority of the country’s largest destinations to see one or two percentage points down in 2018 compared to 2017. However, the market still remains the largest in the world, with over 110 million domestic tourists coming to the United States each year.

North America will welcome 95.5 million domestic tourists in 2019, the fifth-largest market by domestic visitors.

If the national capital region loses its status as the most popular US destination for foreign visitors, it could pave the way for San Francisco to emerge as a major contender. If this were to happen, it could mean even more permanent losses for Dallas. Travel industry leaders expect for a slight uptick of around 1% for domestic tourism, which would require substantial growth in 2020.

USA TODAY’s analysis reveals the importance of cities such as New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco to the US travel industry. Before the budget deal, domestic tourism numbers were already down 1% from 2017. If the US stays on the path of fewer visitors, it could hurt economic growth and potentially deter investment dollars.

The Association of Leading Visitor Attractions of North America (ALVA) predicts that there will be almost one in five domestic tourists from China in 2020. In the top 25 cities, there are around 430 million US visitors per year, with the remaining relying on a variety of other international markets.

How to choose a world-class destination

Over the next decade, the demand for “must-go cities” will grow. Cities that are exciting and set-top-notch attractions will win out, according to experts. Check out the list below for more important characteristics:

Make a “bucket list”

If you’re looking for a place to base your trip, do a global sweep in your search to see the greatest destinations. Be sure to review everything from your immediate destination to the surrounding regions such as Canada and Mexico. If you don’t have a fantastic base and need a new beginning, the world has no boundaries.

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