US tourists see global spending spike

Written by By Nick Enoch, CNN

Tourism spending in the US is returning to pre-recession levels thanks to the shrinking number of Americans moving overseas and as international visitors remain stable or grow, according to a new survey by travel research and marketing consultancy firm STR Global.

Global expenditure reached $751 billion in 2018, the firm says, a rise of 8% from the previous year.

While volume is still below the 2006 peak of $766 billion, expenditure per traveler is heading back up.

(See the graphic above for data from 2017 — the most recent data available.)

It’s worth noting that this resurgence has largely happened in luxury international markets, with the inbound spend average increasing 7% to $11,923 from $10,455 in 2017. The top five countries for spending are France, China, United Kingdom, Japan and Canada.

Where to go and what to see

According to the report, one of the most notable findings is the decline in destinations overseas, as traditional hotspots such as the US East Coast, the US West Coast and Los Angeles and New York show a sharp drop in arrival numbers, falling by 20% and 35%, respectively.

Meanwhile growth is being concentrated in destinations like Argentina and Mexico. Cities in China such as Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou also performed well, and the hotel sector is beginning to get back on its feet.

John Faucher, Chief Economist at Mastercard SpendingPulse, says this year’s strong tourist spending is due in part to “good weather and continued good economic performance.” But he also emphasized an increase in the number of visitors using credit and debit cards to pay for their trips, as opposed to cash.

Credit card transactions for international guests rose 10% in the US last year, to $64 billion.

The report also found that around 79% of domestic visitors intend to return to the US in the next six months, according to Experian data.

Meanwhile, nearly half of all international visitors are planning to remain in the US for extended periods of time, while some travel-weary Americans are having second thoughts.

Faucher says that more travelers are traveling to “not just tourist destinations, but central cities and major metro areas,” like LA and San Francisco.

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