U.S. 2010 overseas travel drops dramatically


The economic crisis in the United States has dramatically hurt overseas travel. U.S. International Air Travel Statistics collected by the Office of Travel & Tourism Industries (OTTI), a part of the Commerce Department, show a dramatic reduction in travel from the United States to Europe, South and Central America. and to Asia.

Travel to close-by countries, Canada, the Caribbean and Mexico, has increased.

Here are the statistics released by the Department of Commerce (DOC):

Highlights: 2010 U.S. Citizen Air Traffic to Mexico, Canada and Overseas Regions

Cautionary Note: Comparing annual 2010 outbound data, a combination of legacy I-92 and APIS data, to annual 2009 (legacy I-92 data) is somewhat of an apples to oranges comparison based on the changes in methodology made in the second half of 2010 to APIS. Therefore, percent changes are provided below to only give a sense of magnitude.

U.S. outbound air passengers totaled 37.4 million in 2010, down four percent.

    • Mexico was up two percent.
    • Canada increased six percent (source data is from Stats Canada).
    • Overseas markets were down six percent.
    • The Caribbean was up three percent.
    • Europe was down seven percent.
    • Asia was down eight percent.
    • South America was down 17 percent.
    • Central America was down 11 percent.
    • The Middle East was up 11 percent.
    • Oceania was down 13 percent.
    • Africa was up two percent.

At the same time statistics released by the Air Transport Association (ATA) show that there has been a dramatic slowdown in domestic travel. Fewer travelers are traveling less, which has led to the 10 percent decrease since 2007 in available seat miles. This means less capacity and more crowded flights.

For anyone keeping score of jobs in this jobless day and age, the airline industry has shed 137,000 full-time jobs from 2000 to 2011. Today there are 385,700 full-time airline employees. In 2000 there were 523,200 full-time employees.

After several trips to Europe this past spring and summer, I certainly have sensed that there are far fewer U.S. citizens on the tourism trails in Germany, Switzerland, Spain and Italy. Incidentally, the number of Canadians seems to have increased dramatically. Of course these are only anecdotal reports, not official statistics.

Fewer overseas travelers means less capacity and continued higher airfares. Until Americans start traveling again, enough to encourage airlines to increase capacity, I don’t expect airfares to drop.