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Travel Industry Forecast Strengthens for 2004 and Beyond

The combination of a strengthening economy along with an increase in consumer confidence and spending is helping to make 2004 one of the strongest years in travel in quite some time. The recovery is also helped by the increase in business investments which has spurred a recovery in business travel.According to the Travel Industry Association of America‘s (TIA) Annual Travel Forecast, overall traveler spending by domestic and international visitors is forecasted to increase nearly 6 percent in 2004 to $585 billion, up from $552 billion in 2003. Travel spending is expected to continue to improve in 2005, increasing nearly 5 percent to $613 billion and finally surpassing the record set in 2000.
Increasing for the first time since 1999, U.S. residents are forecasted to take nearly 145 million business person-trips in 2004, an improvement of 4.6 percent from 2003. In 2005, business travel will increase 3.5 percent to nearly 150 million person-trips.
While domestic leisure travel has posted modest growth over the past few years, despite recent events, 2004 will show stronger growth. TIA is forecasting leisure travel volume to grow 3.4 percent this year to 961 million person-trips, up from a less than 2 percent growth in 2003. It will increase once again in 2005 by nearly 2 percent to 978 million person-trips. Travel price inflation is forecasted to increase 2.2 percent in 2004, due mostly to higher hotel rates and gasoline prices.
“A healthier economy is providing ample stimulus for strong growth this year. Setting the stage are moderate increases in consumer spending, higher levels of consumer confidence, increasing business investments and profits, and modest travel price increases,” said William S. Norman, president and CEO of the Travel Industry Association of America.
For the first time in three years, international inbound arrivals to the U.S. are finally on the upswing, with a forecasted 42.5 million international arrivals in 2004. This is an increase of 5.3 percent from the 40.4 million arrivals in 2003. However, these numbers are still well below the high of 51 million arrivals in 2000. International traveler spending in the U.S. is forecasted to increase an impressive 6.6 percent in 2004, to more than $69 billion, and increase more than 7 percent in 2005 to nearly $75 billion. Once again, these spending levels are well below the $82 billion spent by international travelers in 2000.