As the northern hemisphere prepares for another high season for travel, many factors affect which destinations will most benefit from the outbound travel market. Trump’s rhetoric around travel bans has definitely dampened travel into the US, but, backed by a strong dollar, high consumer confidence and a decreasing unemployment rate, US outbound travel continues to rise. In fact, the US State Department is expecting a record number of passport applications this year – 10 years after WHS and legislation requiring Americans to have passports for travel to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. At the end of 2016, 41% of the US population held passports, up from 39% in 2015 and 37.9% in 2014 .
Concern for safety, in a time of increased guerrilla terrorism, seems to be taking its toll. For example, Germans showed a marked slowdown in outbound travel in 2016, particularly to destinations like Istanbul, Paris, Brussels and Nice. Canada, a historically safe destination, has seen a significant uptick in visitation.
In the Asia Pacific, outbound travel continues to be in vogue – Japan and Australia have shown significant increases. Percentage growth in travel from China was cut in half between 2016 and 2015, but this market continues to show strength.
Canada is moving to provide more assurance for travellers using Canadian airlines with a travellers’ bill of rights, while providing more support for its airlines by giving them more access to foreign cash.
Here’s the latest on outbound travel on some major travel markets…
CANADA: In line with market expectations, unemployment edged up to 6.7% in March from 6.6% in February1. Canada’s index of Consumer Confidence fell 2.3 points to 109.4 in April. This decline comes after two consecutive months of increase though the index’s elevated level suggests that consumers remain optimistic following several months of economic growth and national employment gains. ((Desormeaux, Marc. “Index of Consumer Confidence: April 2017”. The Conference Board of Canada, April 26, 2017)).
Canada is planning to have new rules in place by 2018 which bolster passenger rights and relax international ownership restrictions in Canada’s airlines, allowing foreign investment limits to lift from 25 to 49%. This is good news for the airline industry, allowing it more access to cash. This was immediately confirmed by the stock market, where both Air Canada and West Jet stocks saw a jump in value2.
Canadians took 1 million overseas trips in the month of February, the highest number of outbound travellers since recordkeeping began in 1972. This was a 2.6% increase from the number of trips taken in January and a noteworthy 8.5% increase when compared to February of 20163.
UNITED STATES: Unemployment in the US edged down to 4.5% in March from 4.7% the month prior. The decrease to 4.5% leaves unemployment at the lowest rate since May of 20074. Following sharp increases in the months prior including a spike to 124.9 in March, consumer confidence in the United States settled back to 120.3 in April5.
72.6 million Americans travelled internationally January to November of 2016 – a noteworthy increase of 8% compared to the number of travellers over the same timeframe in 2015. The majority of travel was Canada or Mexico-bound with these two countries alone seeing 40.74 million American Travellers – a 9.4% increase year over year. Overseas travel from January to November 2016 increased 6.3% year over year to 31.82 million trips6. Total spending on travel and tourism-related products increased by 4% in March 2017 (YOY)7
The US State Department is expecting a record number of passport applications this year, as the 10-year anniversary of the change in document requirements for Americans going to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean coincides with the 10-year renewal on passports8. Prior to the legislation, travellers could use government-issued ID like a driver’s license or birth certificate to go to these countries. The legislation, influenced by the events of 9/11, changed the requirement to passports.
At the end of 2016, 41% of the US population held passports9.
UK: The UK economy grew a mere 0.3% in Q1. The worse-than-expected slowdown is being largely attributed to Brexit. This comes after the sharp slowdown to 0.7% growth in Q4 of 2016 which defied pre-vote predictions of an economic recession in the wake of a “Leave” win. The annual rate of inflation sits at a three-year high of 2.3% with wage rises remaining at 2.2% – highlighting the continued decline in household spending power10.
Despite the uncertainty of Brexit, the number of UK residents travelling abroad continues to show significant growth, particularly to other EU countries. In the first quarter of 2017, visits abroad increased by 3% (over the same period last year) and spending increased by 8%11.
GERMANY: 2016 showed a marked slowdown in German outbound travel. Due to safety concerns and global terrorism, the number of travel days declined last year by 0.3% to 1.67 billion. Spending was down anywhere from 2-3.5%. The major reason was concern for safely; Turkey, a popular destination for German tourists, saw a significant drop. Cities like Paris, Brussels and Nice have also been affected12.
Unemployment remained unchanged from February to March at 3.9% and below the 4.3% of the same month last year.13.
FRANCE: France’s GDP expanded 0.3% in Q1 2017, following growth of 0.5% in the final quarter of 201614. Despite being Europe’s third biggest economy, France has struggled with years of minimal growth, high unemployment and budget deficits in the wake of the global financial crisis. The French economy expanded 1.2% in 2016 compared to the other two larger economies in Europe – Germany and the UK which marked growth of 1.8% over the same period. Unemployment hovers around 10% which is more than double that of both Britain and Germany15.
JAPAN: Japanese travellers took 1.74 million outbound trips in March – a 12.1% increase year over year. Q1 saw 4.527 million Japanese embark on international travel – an increase of 8.2% over Q1 of 2016 which saw 4.156 million outbound trips16.
CHINA: Despite the country’s weakening currency and slowing growth, Chinese travellers have once again retained the top spot for international spending. Chinese tourists reached $261billion USD in spending in 2016, a 12% increase from the spending in 2015. While noteworthy, this 12% growth is less than half of the 25% growth seen in YOY spending in 2015. Last year marked the 13th straight year of double-digit growth in overseas travel spending from China.
Chinese travellers spent more than twice what US travellers did in 2016, even with their international spending up 8% year over year to $122 billion USD ((“China Retains Top Spot as World’s Big Spending on Overseas Tourism”. South China Morning Post, April 15, 2017)).
AUSTRALIA: Australians embarked on 832,600 oversea trips in February, a 12% increase from the 732,100 trips in February of 201617.
WORD OF MOUTH
“The proof will be in the pudding. It’s got to have substantial teeth in it that’s going to be meaningful”.
So says Woody French, a former mayor from Newfoundland and advocate for passenger rights. While applauding the Canadian government for introducing new legislation outlining an air travellers’ bill of rights, French said that the effectiveness of such legislation will depend on how well the rules will be enforced. Previous rules introduced by the former government (under Harper) did little to protect passengers. French points to European rules for airlines which work because they clearly lay out how airlines are held accountable if they violate those rights. Although the legislation has been in the works for some time, its release in mid-May is timely, following a rash of reports of passengers being denied flights, including a case in Canada where a 10-year old child was prevented from travelling with his family and the even more famous case of the forcible extraction of a passenger from United Airlines in the US. Such reports undermine consumer confidence in the airline industry.
- “Canadian Unemployment Rate”. Trading Economics, April 7, 2017 [↩]
- Reuters, “Canada to ease airline joint-venture and ownership rules, bolster passenger rights”, May 16, 2017 [↩]
- “Travel Between Canada and other Countries, February 2017”. Statistics Canada, April 20, 2017 [↩]
- “United States Unemployment Rate”. Trading Economics, April 7, 2017 [↩]
- “The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index Declined in April”. The Conference Board, April 25, 2017 [↩]
- US Citizen Travel to International Regions”. National Travel and Tourism Office, January 31, 2017 [↩]
- US BEA & National Travel and Tourism Office, “Monthly Spending”, part of “2017 US Travel and Tourism Statistics”, released May 4 2017 [↩]
- Harpaz, “US Passport Offices Face Record Demand for Applications”, Skift, May 18, 2017 [↩]
- https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/passports/statistics.html [↩]
- “UK Economy Suffers its Biggest Brexit Setback”. News Talk, April 28, 2017 [↩]
- UK Office of Statistics, “Trends in oversees visits by UK residents (non-seasonally adjusted)”, released Nay 19, 2017 [↩]
- “German Outbound Travel Hit by Safety Concerns”. ITB Berlin News, March 7, 2017 [↩]
- “Germany Unemployment Rate. Trading Economics, May 3, 2017 [↩]
- Horobin, William. “France’s GDP Growth Slows Ahead of Election”. Market Watch, April 28, 2017 [↩]
- Kottasová, Ivana. “France is the Weakest of Europe’s Big 3 Economies”. CNN Money, April 23, 2017 [↩]
- “2017 Foreign Visitors & Japanese Departures”. Japan National Tourism Organization, March 2017 [↩]
- “Overseas Arrivals and Departures, Australia, February 2017”. Australian Bureau of Statistics April 12, 2017 [↩]
Mahon Jones & Associates is a tourism consulting firm, based in Canada, with special focus on cultural tourism and attracting the cultural tourist. The information above has been compiled via desk research of the internet for clients and key contacts, primarily located in Canada. It is intended to provide contacts with a quick snapshot of currently available market information.
For more information about our services or to discuss how we can assist your organization, government agency or business visit our website at www.mahonjones.com or contact us.